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Media response to rape unacceptable

Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

After the highly publicized trial surrounding the Steubenville rape case, where a 16-year-old girl was raped at a party by two high school football players, it's natural that the media had an immediate response to the rapists’ sentencing. Their response, however, was less than ideal.

Rather than bemoan the fact that these rapists received the minimum sentence — both serving a year for the rape and one serving another year for circulating pictures of the rape — major news outlets like CNN grieved the guilty verdict. CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow, while reporting from the scene, stated how difficult it was to watch "as these two young men, [who] had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their [lives] fell apart."

The judge of the case mentioned that "this is the problem with social media." A correspondent for NBC again emphasized the sadness of the future of the rapists: "Both boys had promising football careers — Mays the quarterback, Richmond the receiver — on the beloved high school team and dreams of college. In court, their lawyers and parents pleaded with the judge not to impose a harsh sentence."

In what world is this a proper reaction to a rape sentencing? Despite how promising their careers may have seemed before this trial, the guilty verdict is not what ruined their futures. What ruined their futures was their decision to commit a rape.

A boy can be a football star and an excellent student, but that doesn't mean anything if he is also a rapist. These boys made the conscious decision to take advantage of a girl and brag about it on social media, and none of that says "promising future." They committed the crime and they should have to pay the consequences for their actions. A few years in jail and registration as juvenile sex offenders is a lighter sentence than they would have gotten had they been tried as adults.

The most disturbing part of these reactions is not the fact that they happened, but the fact that they happen so frequently. As a country, we decry India and Egypt for being rape friendly, but we close our eyes to what happens on our own soil. The reaction to the Steubenville case was abhorrent, but it was not unusual.

When someone tries to take their rapist to court, it is common for rape apologists to come out of the woodwork to ask questions and draw conclusions that don't matter. "What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Do you have casual sex? Did you lead him on? Was it really rape, or just sex that you regretted in the morning?" These are just a few questions that rape survivors must answer — it’s no surprise that 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

The reaction to rape needs to change. It's sickening to live in a country so saturated in rape culture that we blame the victims for ruining the lives of the rapists.

Without a drastic change in the way we react to cases of rape, there is no way we can change anything else about the crime; everything from how often rape is committed to how many rapes go unreported is a direct result of valuing the rapist over the victim. In a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice, women admitted that they feared reprimands from police officers for reporting an incident.

Rape is a problem in America, and it's clear from the reactions to the Steubenville case that people don't even realize it.