[Updated] Why we can’t stop talking about rape culture

[Trigger Warning]

They say bad news comes in threes, but I’m just about this week with just two stories.

Exhibit A: Over the weekend one of the Steubenville rapists, Ma’lik Richmond, was released early from juvenile detention after nine months, short of his one-year sentence. Richmond, who was 17 at his sentencing last year, got the lesser of the two sentences — fellow rapist Trent Mays had an additional year tacked on for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” for posting photos and video of the rapes on social media — in the controversial case that grew to prominence thanks to the vigilante justice of hacker collective Anonymous. Now that he’s free, his attorney has issued a statement lamenting the poor fate of such a promising young man.

At sixteen years old, Ma’Lik and his family endured hardness beyond imagination for any adult yet alone child. He has persevered the hardness and made the most of yet another unfortunate set of circumstances in his life.

Because being a convicted rapist is such an unfortunate circumstance. Wait. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Let’s assume for a moment that the criminal justice system is magic and Richmond has been rehabilitated. Wouldn’t part of that process be acknowledging the awful thing he was convicted of, or at least acknowledging the damage done to the person he raped (who will also have to live with the events of that night for her entire life and undergo the painful process of healing from this traumatic event and trial)? Apparently not. Because rape culture.

In other words, it is a classic non-apology. A signal right out of the gate that the narrative for the Richmond camp hasn’t changed over the last nine months. He is still a victim who had to “persevere” through the “ordeal” of taking responsibility for a crime he committed. The person who thought that a young girl who could barely hold her head up to speak was “coming on to me,” and that carrying her seemingly lifeless body around like luggage was “just clowning around.” Judging from the statement, which was no doubt thought through by Richmond’s lawyer before being released to the public, the lesson Richmond learned in detention wasn’t about personal accountability, a culture of male sexual entitlement or the harm he caused his victim and her community — it was that he was victimized by the public and the justice system.

So then, because some people are still upset that rape culture let’s convicted rapists not only get light sentences (except when the cases are just thrown out for no reason at all, because rape culture) but then let’s them parade around like they are the victims — there, there, poor rapists — some folks in Steubenville took it to the streets. Adam Rahuba posted on Stop Being Broken You Are Not Alone about the backlash he’s getting from “#TENYEARSFORRAPE” signs that he posted around the Steubenville:

Steubenville, Ohio changed me.  I’ve talked about this before.  The feeling of standing there, one common mission flowing through the veins of thousands, working to make systematic change.  We were going to end rape culture.  We were going to show men and women, children, and the authorities that we were fucking fed up, and that we weren’t going to stand by while a culture that glorifies rape runs out of control.  One year ago today, we all stood in unison to say, “I HATE RAPE.”

A year has past, and the narrative has changed in the activist community surrounding Steubenville.  People who I once stood beside who vowed that they would do ANYTHING to fight against a proliferating rape culture now sit on Twitter, joining the sides of the Steubenville mommy brigade, Lee Stranahan, and others who think that Ma’lik Richmond’s sentence was appropriate.  People I called friends are bashing me.  Telling me that it’s time to let Steubenville go.  That the community needs to heal.

Upon hearing of Ma’lik Richmond’s release (which may or may not have been a little early depending on which news source you ask), I was angered. … I drove to Steubenville last night with Laura.  We posted flyers around the school that simply said, “#TENYEARSFORRAPE.” … I want high school kids and parents of school children to feel the same disgust that I feel about a rapist serving a year.

Part of the push-back has come from parents who don’t want elementary school kids to be seeing or talking about the word “rape.” But Rahuba argues that any kid in Steubenville has heard that word in the past year and, furthermore, should be talking to parents and educators about it to continue the conversation about ending rape. Unfortunately, Rahuba says he’s also gotten push-back from fellow activists who think it’s time to stop talking about the rape in Steubenville or any other.

My mission will continue, and I’ll do this by myself if I have to.  We stood side by side for justice for Jane Doe.  To me, Jane Doe is more than the West Virginia girl who Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays brutally raped.  Jane Doe is every girl who is raped.

I don’t know who you’ve been hanging out with Adam, but there’s a whole bunch of us in the #fem2 community who are still plenty mad about Steubenville and all the other rapes that go on to get little or no justice. I didn’t know there was such a thing as fair-weather anti-rape activists, but if there is, you’ll find none of that here.

Which brings me to …

Exhibit B: On Tuesday news broke that Daisy Coleman, the survivor of the Steubenville-esque rape in Maryville, Mo., has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt.

The teenage girl at the center of the Maryville, Ohio rape case that dominated headlines last year has been hospitalized after a Sunday night suicide attempt.

Daisy Coleman, who was 14 when she accused a prominent high school football player of rape in January 2012, attempted to take her own life Sunday night after her mother let her go to a party over the weekend. The teenager stayed at the party for just an hour, but her mother told Fox4 she was attacked on social media immediately afterwards.

Apparently, some girls left nastygrams for Coleman via social media that read, “you wanted it” and “you’re a slut” because she went to the party, according to Dr. Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother. In fact, this is far from an isolated incident for Daisy and her mother, who found their home burned down under “mysterious circumstances.” Daisy herself chronicled her experience of sexual assault and the aftermath, including relentless tormenting by classmates, in an XOJane post [SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING].

On Twitter and Facebook, I was called a skank and a liar and people encouraged me to kill myself. Twice, I did try to take my own life.

When I went to a dance competition I saw a girl there who was wearing a T-shirt she made. It read: “Matt 1, Daisy 0.”

There you have it. Rape victims who go to parties years later are then called sluts. This is the nexus point for slut-shaming and rape culture. Remember, the point of slut-shaming is to keep girls and women in line with the tenants of “good” behavior. If you’ve been raped, by the transitive property of slut-shaming, you have been proven a slut. But what about the reality that in a rape culture, rape is inevitable? What say you then, slut-shamers?

Unfortunately, this is the sad state of things when it comes to being the survivor of a sexual assault in the social media age. It’s almost predictable: get raped; find images and/or video of the rape online; get cyberbullied by your rapist(s) and/or everyone you know for months, even years. Remember 17-year-old Retaeh Parsons? How about 19-year-old Lizzy Seeberg, who committed suicide after relentless bullying stemming from her report of being raped by a Notre Dame football player.

I mean, what the actual fuck?

I don’t even know what else to say.

UPDATE: Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has filed charges against Matthew Barnett, 19. The charges? Misdemeanor child endangerment (for leaving Daisy Coleman passed out on her front lawn in 20-degree weather in which it was so cold she could have died of hypothermia and was found with her hair frozen to the ground). Is there a sexual assault charge? Nope. Baker says there is not sufficient evidence. I call bullshit. (1/9/14)

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3 thoughts on “[Updated] Why we can’t stop talking about rape culture

  1. Pingback: Obama takes a bold stance on rape culture | The Sin City Siren

  2. Pingback: You had me at James Bond: White House PSAs on sexual assault put onus on men | The Sin City Siren

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