The Times West Virginian

March 20, 2013

Rape is rape: Message that must be made clear to everyone

Times West Virginian

— It happens once every two minutes in the United States.

That means there are an average of 207,754 victims of rape and sexual assault each year.

Maybe it’s happened to someone you know.

Maybe it’s happened to you.

It happened one day last summer, and now two members of a celebrated high school football team in Steubenville, Ohio, have been found guilty of committing the horrendous crime.

We’re sure you’re familiar with the case by now. As The Associated Press has reported, two of Steubenville High School’s football players were charged with raping a drunken 16-year-old girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party last summer, and then in the basement of a house.

Prosecutors argued that the victim was so intoxicated she couldn’t consent to sex that night, while the defense contended the girl realized what she was doing and was known to lie.

The victim, a resident of West Virginia, testified that she couldn’t recall what happened but woke up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.

“It was really scary,” she said. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”

The case brought national attention to the city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville football team, and the crime shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online.

Rape itself is ugly. It’s disgusting. Anyone who commits it should be punished to the full extent of the law.

But young people witnessing it happening and, instead of trying to stop it or report it to the police, capturing the images on their cellphones? There are no words to adequately describe that heinous behavior.

We understand that cellphones and the ability to be instantly connected to their friends is a way of life for most teenagers. We realize they love documenting their every waking moment online.

But we also sincerely hope that those same teens know the difference between right and wrong.

So make sure this message is made clear to your kids and grandkids: Rape is rape.

It doesn’t matter what the victim is wearing.

It doesn’t matter if the victim is drunk or under the influence of drugs.

It doesn’t matter if the person committing the rape is well-known in the community or has a promising future.

Rape is rape.

It isn’t something that should go unreported.

It isn’t something that should be joked or gossiped about via social media websites.

It isn’t something that should be ignored.

Rape is rape.

Although the two young men in Steubenville were found guilty, the case might not be over.

The Ohio attorney general has said he will be continuing his investigation and might consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the attack last August. That could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school football team.

The victim in the Steubenville case described waking up naked in a strange house as “really scary.” She probably faced a range of emotions unlike any that a person who hasn’t been the victim of rape can understand.

We hope Sunday’s verdict gives her some form of closure, especially if the case continues to play out over the coming weeks and months.

We hope it will cause other victims to report similar crimes that were committed against them.

Ultimately, we hope their unified voices help decrease the number of rapes and sexual assaults committed in this country.

Rape is rape, and one victim is one too many.