Controversial court cases often generate severe public reactions, which jolt the way the original problem is handled and remembered.
In a world where social media reigns supreme, these reactions can shape the way the victims or convicted criminals are remembered, and make the road to recovering from these traumatic experiences all the more difficult.
It is a recurring problem that has stained almost every city and state across the country, but no place currently knows it more than Steubenville, Ohio.
Omari Sankofa II
Just two days after Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two Steubenville High School football players, were found guilty in juvenile court of raping a 16-year-old girl, an outcry of anger was expressed from the public, making the events in one small town national headlines.
Because of the nature of the case, strong feelings of hostility, annoyance and displeasure could be expected.
For Steubenville, two members of their high school football team face at least one year in juvenile detention, with Mays potentially serving an extra year for the distribution of images of the victim while she was without clothes.
In addition to the sexual assault she endured from the two young men, the victim was humiliated, exposed for millions to see on the Internet and later forced to relive her experiences for the public to hear in court.
Without question, these obviously are scenarios no 16-year-old ever should have to experience. But her struggles didn’t end there.
The outcry of anger that followed the court’s decision wasn’t directed toward the men who committed these heinous crimes, or even about the topic of rape in general. They were directed at the victim.
Almost instantly, death threats and warnings of bodily harm were launched toward the victim via Twitter.
In an unlikely turn of events, she had gone from being the sufferer in a case where she was sexually assaulted and embarrassed online, to being blamed for the misfortunes of her attackers.
The 16-year-old girl was being attacked for underage drinking the night of the incident, lying about the incident and not being intelligent enough to leave with her friends to avoid what happened.
The absurdity of these claims, and the reaction being displayed by the public on a national scale, is troubling, to say the least, and demonstrates a larger problem in this country.
Too often, athletes and other high-profile figures are able to divert paying the consequences of their actions simply because their celebrated stature influences how they’re perceived with the public.
Although a person you feel a bond with because of their prominent status is easier to side with, this backward mindset makes it impossible to truly hold those guilty accountable for their actions. As outcries of anger continue to litter social media, directing blame toward the victim for her role in this case, let us not forget the larger situation at hand.
Regardless of their football greatness, Mays and Richmond raped a young woman. They spread images of her online and exposed her for millions to see and violated the trust she had for the two men.
She wasn’t being tried for underage drinking; they were being tried for rape.
As students on a college campus, many lessons can be taken away from this case.
On most weekends, many of us will go to parties, drink and likely be put in situations we don’t always feel comfortable in.
Although it’s not always possible to avoid these scenarios, keeping an eye out for one another can ensure nothing dangerous ensues.
Nothing can be done to reverse the events that took place in Steubenville, but the way we respond to these situations can better guarantee these problems might one day come to an end.