Dear Steubenville, Sexual Assault Victims Are Never "Asking For It" Meghan O'Keefe

I should start by saying that don’t really want to write about this.

I don’t want to let you guys know about the now-viral video of some teenage boys from Steubenville, Ohio boasting and joking and admitting to gang raping a girl who was passed out at a party.

I don’t want to let you know that the girl only found out about the full gravity of the sexual assault via social media the next day.

I don’t want to let you know that there was a house full of people who saw her being roofied, gang raped and abused and did nothing, except tweet and post to Instagram about it. And of course, people also then later made videos laughing about how she had been raped “dead.” I don’t want to tell you that, either.

I also don’t want to tell you that some people thought she got what she deserved because she was young and female and drinking underage and therefore, “asking for it”.

I certainly don’t want to also tell you that some members of the community are ignoring all this evidence and calling the victim the “train whore“. I don’t want to add that the reason the boys are considered innocent by their community is because they are superstar athletes on the town’s football team or that the victim is being accused of lying about the rape because, and I quote what Steubenville resident Nate Hubbard actually said to the The New York Times, “What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”

I don’t want any of this to exist because I don’t want rape and abuse to exist.

I’m sure none of you want me to talk about these things, either. I think we would all prefer to live in a world where everyone gets along and we all have mutual respect for each other’s bodies and we ride unicorns everywhere, but we don’t. We live in a world with a lot of good and with a lot of evil, and until we call out that evil and root it out as a society, it’s going to continue to exist.

So, because this disgusting video exists and because this horrifying crime took place, I have to let you know about it. (And if, you want to learn more about it than what I’m able to share here without puking, The Atlantic and Jezebel both have a ton of insightful and informative coverage, including Anonymous’s involvement, and all the information I cited came from those places and The New York Times.)

The thing that really infuriates me about this case isn’t all of the horrifying things I’ve already mentioned. I mean, everything I’ve told you makes me want to hide in a cave far away from humanity from the rest of my life, but what really pisses me off is that on the video there is actually one guy in the room who tells the other boys that what they have done is wrong and that it’s “rape”. He gets laughed at.

While I’d love to take this moment to celebrate that there are good people in the world who speak up,  I can’t. We can’t applaud people for merely “speaking up” in protest of rape, domestic abuse, harassment and misogyny anymore. It’s not enough. Especially when it doesn’t stop it, and especially when they so often deplore such crimes after the damage has already been done.

We need to stop these violent acts from happening in the first place. We need to make sure that we live in a society we don’t idly sit by when we see women and children being threatened and abused. We need to make it clear that rape, domestic abuse and sexual harassment are morally wrong. No question. NO JOKE.

I mean, how can a person in our society even entertain the thought of raping someone who is unconscious and think they are in the right? I mean, if you enter a room and someone is sleeping, you never think, “I could totally murder this person right now and it would be okay because I don’t know for sure they don’t want to be murdered because they are unconscious and can’t tell me. Mwahahahaha!” You know instinctively that another human being would never agree to being murdered and that murdering someone is wrong.

It’s the same thing with rape. No human being wants to be murdered and no human being wants to be forced to have sex against their will. It doesn’t matter if a girl is passed out and wearing a mini-skirt, walking alone at night or drinking and flirting and kissing guys at a party. She’s never, ever, ever, ever asking to be raped. It’s to the point where Taylor Swift should rewrite her hit song to go, “We are never, ever, ever, ever…asking for ‘it‘.” I mean, how is this still something we as women have to repeatedly speak up about?

Unfortunately, until stories like the Steubenville case cease to exist, we have to keep screaming and yelling and fighting for our rights.

Women should never be blamed for sexual assault.

Women and their families should never be shamed or blamed for reporting rape or assault.

Men and women alike can not excuse rapists behavior because the victim was “asking for it” because being raped literally means the victim was not asking for it.

If people see someone being assaulted, they can’t stand by idly or weakly protest and then back down. They need to actually stop it.

We need to make it implicitly clear that raping someone means you have not only committed a terrible crime, you’ve also done something unconscionably evil.

Oh, and the United States Congress needs to explain why the Violence Against Women Act wasn’t reauthorized and why in this day and age, any nation still needs to make laws to protect women from violence.

So ladies and gents, let’s get our battle armor on, fly those flags for feminism and equality high and fight until stories like this one never have to be written about again–because they won’t exist.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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  1. Good artickle.
    Allthou I´m repeating myself I feel that I must say this again:

    Rape is rape regardless of who is raped. Rape is rape regardless of whom the rapist is.

    Why are we blind to the pain of others. Is it that we have too much pain of our own. Is it that we are repeating what has allready happened to ourselves in our own lifes. Whatever the case; a wrong is still a wrong and can not be made right.
    There is too much violance that has been made normal to us.

    It is not possible to place a cop or an agent of some kind behind the back of every citicen on planet earth. We have to trust people until we know that we are wrong to do so. We have to give people the benefit of the doubt.
    Accusing people before we acctually know anything about them will not make the trust us. A real nightmare will take place when people stop trusting one another – when people stop trusting society, begin to accuse every stranger for just being different or out of place, when people form armys or “militias” of their own, when the right of law is something that must be payed for.
    There was a time when the knowledge of mankind couold fit into one mind – that was the older stoneage some 50 000 years ago. Now it is a folly to believe that a so called common sence can take us through any science. We can be sencible about what we know and about what we can do – nothing else. So:
    Law as we know it is not only about right and wrong – it is also about the accumulated knowledge or our society. The fact that most of us have no clue what so ever. F.ex. You don´t have to be a mecanic to have a driverslicence, or would you perhaps not trust your surgeon to cut out your appendix( when need be) and ask her/him to do your own cutting.

    What we call justice can be a highly volatile thing.

  2. Thank you for this post. Just a couple of months ago, I have encountered an inappropriate incident with my boss and I have reported it to the human resources division but they didn’t seem to care about what happened to me. They didn’t even updated me after interrogating me about what happened. There was no verdict and the worse part is, my boss was still in our laboratory with his chin up acting like nothing happened. Not even a suspension! If only they knew how it was haunting me and the trauma it has caused me was sever. I was so disgusted of him as well as of myself. Whenever I see him, I always feel nervous and I feel like I wanted to run. Although, I wanted to leave, I think I have no choice. :( I badly needed the job for now since I’m helping my parents. :( In time, I will file for my resignation hopefully next month.
    These inappropriate acts should not be tolerated. >:(

  3. Hi, Meghan!

    Although I hate to have to read that stuff like this exists, I’m so grateful you wrote this great article, and that there are insightful articles like this one and the one Julia wrote here on Hello Giggles, so plenty of girls can read them and reflect on this issues.

    I felt very sorry for the girl and seriously, for the whole community involved in this case.

    Recently there was a (somewhat) similar case in my community, affecting a Law student (as I am) here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There was a Christmas party at the company she worked as an intern, where she was given the ruffies and raped (and suposedly that all ended up on tape, that was sent to many of the male lawyers at the company, but none of them spoke up about the issue). Sadly, the whole story ended even more tragically: the 21-year-old girl threw herself from the 10th floor only a few days after the rape.

    And what’s worse: authorities are simply ignoring the rape story, not going after the people who did this, although the girl left notes where she clearly stated she was “drugged and raped” at the party, and stopped eating and sleeping after the mentioned party. And I ask you: is this because she was a woman and was “asking for it” simply by being an attractive woman working among men? Is this because the company is one of the biggest in Brazil, and no one wants to mess with this kind of power?

    It makes me sick, it makes me so sad, and as far as I read on the internet this is a problem that is growing all over the world, from Brazil to India to the US. How can we make this stop?

  4. google Security – Victims of Violent Crime “In 2009, women were more likely to have been victims of sexual assault than were men. For every 1,000 women, there were 34 incidents of sexual assault compared with 15 for every 1,000 men.

    Men were more likely than women to have been victims of robbery or physical assault.”

    Google “family violence in canada 2005″

    If feminists actually wanted to stop violence and sexual assault they would stop ignoring the realty of it and realize demonizing a hate target and claiming the cause is misogyny is futile, when men suffer in numbers that can not be dismissed. way to exploit this tragedy to further punish your hate target and advance your selfish agenda.

    • wo! Joe, I think you are taking it too far by saying ” way to exploit this tragedy to further punish your hate target and advance your selfish agenda.” It just sounds like you have issues with women when you say that. which you probably don’t since you are reading articles in a blog marketed at women and feminists. I’m just saying it sounds like you are just going off when there is no need for it.

      I was about to comment on this article that its not just women, men as well are victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the fact that the author is failing to point that out makes the article slightly weaker. However, even though men are probably just as likely to be victims of SA and SH, they are less likely to report it. Which is exactly why the author missed to make that point. It’s not just Women who are never ever asking for it, Men are also never ever asking to be raped.

      SA and SH is a culture problem. We live in a culture where for some reason making sexual jokes is okay, it’s meant to be “funny” but it never is and never should be funny because as we know sexual harassment is a precursor to sexual assault. And we know this is a culture problem because it happens, A LOT, it happens in the military, in businesses, in households, in college campuses, this country has too many SA cases out there. And whats even more horrible and scary is all the cases that remain unreported because 1) the victims are afraid or 2) the victims don’t even know that what they experienced actually IS sexual assault. Anyways back to the article, this article is not about any “selfish agenda” and the author definitely does not have a “hate target.” She is simply taking about a very serious problem we have as a society and the first step to fixing a problem is discourse. Yes – men are victimized as well, you are absolutely correct! but her missing to mention this does not mean that she has a hate target, it just means that she lives in the same society you and I do, where most people do believe SA only happens to women. It is our job to change these stereotypes about SA and SH! Articles, comments, and discourse about the issue is what is going to bring the severity and full spectrum of the issue to light. So no need to hate on self professed feminists! In the end efforts of authors like this one help everybody.

      I hope you find no offense in my reply to your comment, non was meant! God Bless.

      • Their is no reason to expect feminists to take a realistic view of the problem. In this article the author is advocating fighting for women only. Pointing out how flawed this is you assume i hate women. This is because to concede these things happen to men destroys the feminist dogma of a misogynist culture .Feminist dogma “patriarchy” misogynist culture” rape culture” needs to be exposed for the hateful bull shit it is before humanism can take the front seat on these issues and for actual progress to commence.

  5. I’m shocked that an article like this has been posted. My mind is actually blown. What kind of world do we live in?

  6. What does Taylor Swift have to do with this?

  7. (Also, Dawnelle, I can see why you’re protecting you town wrt to the article’s title, b/c that obviously implies a direct comment onto Stubenville. In my above comment, I just mean to say that, as an outsider reading about these events (fabricated or not, etc), I have the choice to hate-on Stubenville or not. And I do not. After reading this article, what I took most away from it was to focus on how we as an entire society view rape & its criminal justice system. B/c, yes, this happened in Stubenville. But I guarantee you this–this article’s account of it or the true, facts of what really happened–could happen in any town, city, neighborhood, or suburb in our country & absolutely the world. So I can see why you wrote your comment. I just want you to know that outsiders reading this might not focus on disliking your town, etc. Okay, done.)

  8. I don’t think this article or the issue of rape, let alone gang rape, is anything about being mad at or criminalizing Stubenville. Though I can see your point about wanting to protect your town & why you wrote what you did wrt to specifics in the above article such as the NYT quote, etc. For me anyhow, the issue is about being mad at and criminalizing society’s perceptions about rape & our nation’s criminal justice system that’s meant to protect victims, whereas it frequently criminalizes instead.

    Personally, I’ve seen so much disrespect toward and fear of women from some of the most unlikely of places, that it’s beyond disconcerting. It’s almost like we as an international society have accepted that rape is & always will be because, somehow, we have this insidious notion that women are inherently bad/crafty/tricky/evil/deceitful. Honestly, I think I feel worse for those who harbor such dis-truths than I feel for those who become victims of them. But I’m still working these strands out, myself. Much love.

  9. Iam from Steubenville and wanted to claify that a lot of the information being put out on the Internet is not true. The Anonymous that leaked the story is a college student from Steubenville with an axe to grind. The horrible tape did occur, no one in town is denying that, the police did the best they could but witnesses refused to step forward. Unfortunately there is no Ohio law to prosecute the scumbags that stood by and did nothing. The ONE person that posted TRAIN WHORE is from the victims hometown of Weirton West Virginia not Steubenville. Even the victims attorney said the case was handled correctly. This individual that claimed to be in Anonymous has started a firestorm of half truths and rumors that are not only jeopardizing the case but causing much heartache to the victim. Everytime it is on the Internet or Tv she is raped again. The REAL case records are open to the public…unfortunately the are as sensational as the made up ones. Do not in any way think that every person in this town is outraged by what these young men did. But as a whole community we are sick of our town being pulled through the mud and our children afraid to go to school.

    • Dawnelle, you have been misinformed about Anons involvement in this case. It started with blogger Prinnified followed which was then picked up by 4chan some time in oct?( I think) This isn’t one pissed off dude. This is the real anon, and your sheriff is foolish to think its a soul individual.

  10. THankyou for writing this. Really, just thankyou. I know that writing, spreading the word, so forth is hugely important. But I also think that something actually needsto physically happen, as well. Where is the outrage? on the internet, and there is nothing wrong with that. But we need physical activism as well as written. We need to take to the streets and change the mentality of so many in this country and in the world.
    Please know I am NOT hating on you or anyone who writes. You are so enormously important and I know and see that.