****Trigger warning: Discussion about rape. All of the links out also contain discussion about rape..****
The recent coverage by CNN on the case of the Steubenville rapists has received a lot of criticism (like here and here). This case, that has been exposed on the web through bloggers, Anonymous, and social media used by students involved, has recently ended with two football players being charged in juvenile court for raping a 16 yr old girl, with another charge of taking nude photographs of an underage girl and spreading those photographs. The pull-at-your-heart-strings situating of the rapists, focusing on their athleticism, good grades, and “promising futures”, resulted in reporting a verdict that did not reference the survivor in the whole segment. The impression that their lives were being ruined by the sentence- not by their decision to rape an underage girl- was clearly the stance of a rape apologist.
This is what rape culture looks like. It’s a place where rapists are talked about in terms of their promise and lost future, seen as “the real victims“, and survivors receive death threats and are ostracized in their communities. It’s a place where sexual assault is not seen as anything out of the ordinary, particularly for those who feel entitled to it, like the heroic school football stars. It’s a place where consent is the absence of a no, not consciousness or the presence of a yes. It’s a place where this is how rape is thought of:
“It wasn’t violent,” explained teammate Evan Westlake when asked why he didn’t stop the two defendants as they abused a non-moving girl that Westlake knew to be highly intoxicated. “I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.”
This is what rape culture looks like. When black-and-white boundaries are made grey, where it was “their fault for drinking”, where it was their parents fault for letting them go out into the world, where it was the ignorance of youth poisoned with hormones, when no one steps in because they didn’t think that violating an unconscious girl is violent. Rape culture is where the survivor is not even mentioned in the coverage that follows, and we are left apologizing and sympathizing with rapists. CNN has been an active participant in rape culture, as have many other reactions. It’s hard to see such blatant examples, but hopefully it will bring attention to the rape culture we are saturated in today.
If you are interested in an apology from CNN, we encourage you to sign this petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/cnn-apologize-for-your-disgusting-coverage-of-the-steubenville-rapists