Sympathy of media for Steubenville rapists unacceptable, repulsive
News coverage of the Steubenville rapists has flooded every media facet this week since the release of the verdict. If you’ve somehow missed the story, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found guilty on all of the crimes they were charged with after raping, digitally penetrating and urinating on a girl (unnamed minor) in Steubenville, Ohio last summer.
The story’s fame caught like wildfire when many journalists and news anchors reporting the outcome seemed to sympathize with the two boys’ sudden loss of a gleaming future that had been before them. Now, because they had raped and urinated on a girl who was inebriated past the point of consciousness, all their football prowess and academic success were going to go to waste.
The videos from the courtroom show the boys finding solace in their lawyers’ arms, audibly sobbing and eventually apologizing to “Jane Doe,” the minor’s fake name. Because of their obvious distress, reporters like Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow seemed sympathetic to these boys who committed terrible acts against an underage girl who was black-out drunk. They focused more on the possible effects the sentencing would have one the boys’ lives, rather than the actually upsetting fact that the maximum sentences weren’t handed down.
The fact that these small-town boys received some kind of intangible superstar status for their athleticism should in no way excuse their actions. Following the rape allegations, a text from Richmond to a friend surfaced, saying, “I’m pissed all I got was a hand job, though. I should have raped since everyone thinks I did.”
Incidents like this show that the classic idiom, “boys will be boys,” has morphed from something playful into something much more grotesque. The schoolyard urge to one-up each other escalates so much faster when tweets can be sent out in rapid fire and other media can be shared online within seconds.
Comedian Roseanne Barr has collaborated with online “hacktivist” group Anonymous to bring these boys to justice by lighting a proverbial fire under the chief of police to get all of the facts. In an article on Buzzfeed, Barr wrote, “I got horrified at the usual things that horrify me — rape culture in all its gluttony, complicity of adults to protect athletes, and to help to destroy their victims/prey by painting them as immoral, rather than those who harm them.” And I wholeheartedly agree. Being good at a sport cannot excuse someone from committing a crime, especially one as heinous as rape.
There’s no humanity in sympathizing with criminals. Their bright futures can’t outshine their despicable actions, and the national media shouldn’t pity them for being fairly punished.