It’s perfectly understandable, when reporting on a rape trial, to discuss the length and severity of the sentence; it is less understandable to discuss the end of two convicted rapists’ future athletic and academic careers as if it were somehow divorced from the laws of cause and effect. Their dreams and hopes were not crushed by an impersonal, inexorable legal system; Mays and Richmond raped a girl and have been sentenced accordingly. Had they not raped her, they would not be spending at least one year each in a juvenile detention facility.
It is unlikely that Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow are committed rape apologists; more likely they simply wanted a showy, emotional angle at the close of a messy and sensationalized trial. Since the identity of the victim is protected, and the rapists obliged the camera crews by memorably breaking down and crying in court, they found an angle to match: extremely gifted young men were brought tragically low by… mumblemumblesomething.
That isn’t how rape trials ought to be discussed by professional journalists.
Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond are not the “stars” of the Steubenville rape trial. They aren’t the only characters in a drama playing out in eastern Ohio. And yet a CNN viewer learning about the Steubenville rape verdict is presented with dynamic, sympathetic, complicated male figures, and a nonentity of an anonymous victim, the “lasting effects” of whose graphic, public sexual assault are ignored. Small wonder, then, that anyone would find themselves on the side of these men—these poor young men, who were very good at taking tests and playing sports when they were not raping their classmates. –
The boys reactions are emotional, but then again, they made decisions that ruined their future … and ruined the victim’s future. They hurt her. They victimized her. They raped her. One boy took a photograph of her naked. The ramifications and seriousness of their conduct was lost on them, until the court case and verdict.
The lasting effect of their being convicted of rape was justice. Justice that leads them to live their lives differently. And justice that hopefully creates repentance, grace, and allows them to experience through and give mercy to other people. Other people like rapists, rape victims, and young people just thinking it is a ‘normal’ high school alcohol party.