Steubenville Rape Trial: How To Avoid Another Tragedy

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COMMENTARY | The Steubenville rape trial may be over, but the case is still being tried around the office cooler and by numerous media outlets. The controversial rape case that caught the attention of the entire country resulted in two convictions, but also prompted an angst-filled cultural debate as well.

CNN is the focus of ongoing backlash for allegedly blaming the victim in news coverage after the verdict. It is possible to discuss the decision making process of all teens involved without blaming the victim. We need to cast aside the fear of being labeled politically incorrect and discuss the entire scenario which led up to the Steubenville rape to better prevent such a tragedy in the future.

It took decades for women not to be judged for their sexual history and wardrobe choices in rape cases, and we definitely do not need to slide back into old stereotypes. The Steubenville judge had an extremely tough case to decide. He was dealing with statements from drunken teenagers. If you have raises a teenager, you already know how difficult it can be to get a truthful statement of a young adult caught doing something wrong, especially if they are not sober at the time. During the trial, the defense claimed that the viral photo associated with the case was staged.

Teen binge drinking is not a new problem. The level of alcohol intake by all the teens has been widely commented upon throughout the Steubenville rape case. Deciding if victim was too drunk to consent and if the defendants were too drunk to be liable for their actions nearly tore the small Ohio town apart.

Some defense witnesses testified that the victim frequently drank at parties. Claims that the girl was an avid drinker in no way means she was to blame for the digital penetration rape. A woman of any age has the right to go anywhere she pleases. But unfortunately, some very life-changing consequences can occur when women find themselves in vulnerable situations.

The mindset of the young men who treated another human being with zero respect is hard to fathom. According to trial testimony, one defendant joked about offering $3 to anyone who would urinate on the girl. By all accounts, the victim did not really know her attackers, so the mentality of the young men was likely hidden behind their attractive smiles.

The Steubenville rape trial should serve as a warning to both young men and young women. Sound decision making does not typically occur when a lot of alcohol is involved. If the defendants would have committed the crime or the victim would have left with one of her attackers without the involvement of alcohol, is something we will never know. Hopefully getting justice in the case will allow the victim to begin the healing process.

If the victim could turn back the clock and escape her ordeal, she likely would. There is absolutely no way for a woman to totally protect herself from an attack unless she refuses to ever leave her home. But, something good can still come out of the Steubenville rape tragedy if the case makes other young women focus more on safety.

When talking with multiple teenage Ohio girls about the case, they all wondered why the victim went to a party with virtual strangers and got drunk. While some blamed the girl for putting herself in the potentially harmful position, they all talked about how dangerous it is to be around a bunch of drunk guys, athletes in particular.

The conversations the girls initiated should prompt not a shut-in lifestyle but one that makes personal safety a priority and spurs a better looking-out among their social groups. While conducting evaluations of inmates at an Ohio prison, the convicts made reference to how they chose their victims. Opportunity and the path of least resistance nearly always topped the list of the rape target selection process.

When discussing how to prevent teen rapes and date rape, we should not shy away from dissecting the scenario in its entirety. We do not need to blame the victim when reviewing at-risk behavioral choices. Detailing the dangers associated with teen drinking is part of the standard curriculum of drug and alcohol prevention campaigns in high schools. We do young women a disservice when we do not point out the dire impact a night out drinking could have on the rest of their lives.