Rape is not Jane Doe’s fault

Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed how PROFOUNDLY SCREWED UP the mainstream media coverage of the Steubenville verdict was, so that’s something I guess.


Yup, it’s been a long week, filled with outlets such as CNN reporting on the “promising future” of the convicted rapists. I’m sure we’ve all seen this quality journalism from correspondent Poppy Harlow, but let’s take another look:

“Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…”

I dunno, perhaps if these boys wanted to realize their promising futures, maybe they shouldn’t have raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl? It’s incredibly difficult for me, Poppy, to watch you wring your hands about two dudes who raped someone.

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Ol’ Poppy isn’t the only one who seems to be seriously confused on this issue. Convicted rapists Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond are being played out to be the “stars” of this sensationalized trial because AMERICA LOVES A FOOTBALL PLAYER, while the anonymous victim of a horrific crime is being treated like some sort of sub-person who ruined these dudes’ lives by, well, existing, I guess. (Please note how CONVICTED RAPISTS are repeatedly referred to as ‘star football players’ while the victim is referred to as ‘a drunk 16 year old.’)

Like I said last week, rape culture: ain’t it grand?

This mishandled reporting, if you can call it that, underlines some of the points I made last week about victim-blaming/rape responsibility. You’ve heard it all many, many times. Jane Doe didn’t yell “NO MEANS NO” or blow her trusty rape whistle (hard to do when you’re unconscious, and may not have made any difference). Jane Doe was drunk. Jane Doe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She should have left while she was still alert. Jane Doe RUINED THE LIVES OF STAR FOOTBALL PLAYERS.

Imagine, for a moment, being a teenage girl who suffered a major trauma and THE NEWS is saying it’s your fault. THE NEWS is celebrating the achievements/grieving the squandered potential of your rapists. Let’s all barf together.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again and I’ll continue to say it: Society needs to stop teaching girls that sexual assault is their fault. We need to stop saying things like, “You’ll get yourself raped if you wear that skirt.” We need to stop making them feel embarrassed and ashamed for something that isn’t their fault. Embarrassment and shame that, all too often, keeps victims silenced.

Instead, we need to start teaching boys* not to rape, and we need to start discussing rapists like criminals. Not tragic, complicated figures.

It’s time to reassign the blame, folks.


Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist and freelance music journalist. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti

*Not all men are rapists — but an awful lot of rapists are men. Or, in this case, boys.