On Sunday morning, Judge Thomas Lipps handed down the verdict in the case against Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who were both charged with rape of a 16-year-old girl (Jane Doe). In a turn of events sure to turn your stomach, CNN’s Poppy Harlow reported it was “difficult” to watch “as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
It was around here that I began to feel uneasy. Why should we feel sorry for the rapists? They were tried and found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Why is anyone feeling sorry for them?, CNN’s sympathetic comments about how these boys’ lives are now ruined completely disregard any possible damage that Jane Doe is experiencing in her life since the assault.
This is an essential part of rape culture—minimizing the victim, giving the assailants more to say—and this is the core problem of rape culture.
Naturally, the verdict generated comments from rape apologists. This case has been known for dividing Steubenville. But why? There have been photos, videos, and tweets from that night that document an unconscious girl taken advantage of. They were clearly guilty. Yet, for whatever reason, apologists do not want to believe that “good students who play football” could violate someone so intimately.
By minimizing the experience of Jane Doe, our society is only allowing for more rape. This is what keeps victims from standing up for themselves. CNN needs to realize that these “promising futures” are not lost because these boys were victims, but because they violated another human’s sovereignty. These two boys have been labeled as sex offenders, and the media shouldn’t apologize for their rightful branding.
They lost their promising futures because they took advantage of an unconscious girl. No one should apologize for that.