I didn’t follow the Steubenville rape case. I heard the early details, knew there was so much more than what was being said, hoped the system would throw “the book” at the guys if for no other reason than to “make an example” of the guys, assumed (correctly) that wouldn’t happen, and then tuned out.
Forgive me, I have a personal history with this subject.
On Monday, as Clutch already covered here, high school football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found “delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt” —the juvenile equivalent of guilty— of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. Both boys were sentenced to at least one year in a juvenile detention facility, with Mays earning an extra year for posting pictures of the naked girl online.
The guys, teens, were tried as juveniles, which is the only reason I can assume CNN anchors practically offered them condolences on their sentence, and also that so much of the writing on this case has been incredibly PC, at least by my meter.
Forgive me if I’m habitually line-stepping, or even crossing here, by writing what I’m really thinking, but there are a few things I need to get off my chest:
1. Ma’lik Richmond is the Luckiest Black Boy Alive
This 1) Black kid—football player or not— in a 2) small, middle of nowhere white town who 3) was charged with raping a 16-year-old 4) white girl got tried as a juvenile and THEN when found “delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt” received the lesser time than his white co-defendant?!
A year for raping a white girl? Are we still in America?! ‘Cause a guilty Black man ain’t been this lucky since OJ (and really, that was luck, money, and Johnny Cochran’s skill as an attorney).
I watched Young Ma’lik’s courtroom sobbing about his life being over, which CNN found so heartbreaking (I keep mentioning it because I”m just that appalled by it.) Ma’lik needs a perspective check. He got off way easier than some people expected him to, or really, wanted him to.
2. Steubenville is Everywhere USA
It’s too convenient to look a Steubenville and deduce, “small town, sports-hero worship, nothing better to do, that would never happen in [insert bigger city here].” I’m reading so much finger-pointing at their little town, like it’s any different from anywhere else. Puh-lease. It’s a travesty what was done to the victim. But this isn’t an unfamiliar story. (I’m sure, if challenged, the comments section could be filled with them.)
Over a decade ago, I graduated from a D1 university where four football players and a “groupie” allegedly filmed “sexual acts” on video. According to legend, the girl was on her knees, surrounded by four erect penises that she was uh, pleasuring. At some point she stopped to tell the camera, “I support my team” or some such, then went back to business. It was never clear whether she was drunk, high (both?), or sober when this happened.
Anyway, everytime she was spotted on campus, someone would go “slurp, slurp, go [name of team] we support our team!” which is how I heard about the tape. The only reason that didn’t turn into a huge scandal was mobile phones only made calls then, and everyone didn’t have one. Everyone who lived on campus knew about the tape, and lots of people saw it (think of how O-Dog showed off his tape in Menace II Society). I did not, nor did I want to.
Let’s reach further back. My Mom was in high school in the early 70s. She recalls going to a graduation party where a woman got drunk and/or high, had sex with… Well, the woman never could remember who or how many. But she did get pregnant. With twins.
I’m sure if I started asking around to women my deceased grandmother’s age, stories would pour from them too. Like I said, this isn’t new. And unfortunately…
3. This Will Happen Again (And Again, and Again)
I had an interesting Twitter conversation yesterday with a friend, a guy, whose opinion I respect. During our discussion, he made a point– twice– to say that the boys weren’t depraved “in context.” He certainly didn’t think what the guys did was “okay”, but he pointed out that boys are more or less “taught” that having sex with girls and women who are drunk, despite it meeting the legal definition of rape, isn’t a problem. Liquor is largely perceived as a method of getting a woman to relax/ release inhibitions, i.e. make her more likely to agree to sex or even just less likely to protest (notable difference).
Also, culturally, when it comes to rape, the onus is on women to magically figure out a way to avoid it, not on teaching boys and men not to do it. At the mere reasonable suggestion that men carry some responsibility by being taught not to rape, which Zerlina Maxwell did on Fox last week, some men went batsh– —and suggested Maxwell be raped. It’s a sign of how far we have to go– and how many more girls and women will be raped– before this mindset changes.
4. The Victim Needed Better “Friends”
The night of the party, the victim’s female “friends” were present. They testified in court that she was super drunk to the point that she was rolling around on the floor, and that she had a habit of drinking heavily. Ok. If your friend can’t hold her liquor, you leave her home. I knew that as a 17-year-old college freshman and I learned it the FIRST time I went out with someone who got wasted. In the event, that I was out and my girl got drunk or was drunk, I looked after her. It was annoying to leave early. I resented baby sitting someone in the corner, until whoever else we were with went to find the driver. No, really, I hated it. But I did it anyway, because my being annoyed for a night and wasting an outfit was way less important than a woman potentially being raped.
When I was the drunk girl, someone always looked after me. There was a never a discussion about it, an agreement to look out, it was just what was done because that’s what decent people do– take care of people who can’t take care of themselves, especially when you know them and remotely care about them, and even when you don’t.
5. In Context or Out, These Boys Are Depraved
I don’t like to throw kids under the bus, because you know they are kids, but I’ll break my own rule and do it today anyway. Something is really, seriously and truly wrong with the two boys found “delinquent” in this case. Ma’lik was living with his foster family, so who knows what he encountered in his early life. Mays family is less transparent, but he may be even more screwy. On Monday, he apologized to the victim, her family, his own family and the community for taking the photos of her and sending them around. Not a peep about, you know, raping her. (Perhaps that was skipped over for legal reasons, but in that case, I’d rather he just saved the half-*ss apology.)
I don’t know what happened to them or what basic lesson in humanity and decency these young men missed, or who told them that an ability to run fast and/or throw a ball well-meant they could act amoral and that’s just fine, but anybody who carts around a drunk girl to rape her in different locations and then is so nonchalant about it that they do it in front of other people, not even trying to hide like they have no clue is wrong, and THEN allows their depravity to be filmed and photographed is seriously f***ed up in the head. This is an #epicfail of parenting.
As they are both still boys, my hope is that their time served in juvenile detentions is spent with aggressive counseling and rehabilitation to fix their warped mindset, not just learning how to be better predators.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.