UPDATE : Okay, I’ve put the video back, in two parts, minus Trent Mays’ testimony.
UPDATE: I have pulled the video from this post for the time being, as I believe at one point in the eight minute segment, you can hear Mays use the victim’s name. I’ll try to replace the video with a version where her name is bleeped out ASAP. Further info on how Fox News, MSNBC and CNN did not bleep out the victim’s name here.
Yesterday morning, I watched with knots in my stomach as the Steubenville rape verdict was delivered. The evidence — including three key eye witness testimonies, photographs and incriminating text messages — against Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond was vast and it seemed hard to imagine that Judge Tom Lipps wouldn’t convict. Because there was so much evidence that physical contact had occurred between the victim (Jane Doe) and the defendants, the defense focused on trying to prove that while the victim was drunk, she wasn’t so drunk that she couldn’t consent to these acts. Therefore, the verdict in this case, which has drawn international attention, would do much to define when consent can be given in the eyes of the law. And given that this is hardly an isolated incident in one small football-loving town — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine emphasized that rape is a societal problem that is happening in towns and cities all across this country and the world — the decision in this case would be sending a clear message to victims and perpetrators far and wide.
Luckily, Judge Lipps rendered a guilty verdict on all three charges, sentencing Mays to a minimum of two years served consecutively and Richmond to a minimum of one year. At maximum, both could serve time in jail until they are 21. Both will have to register as juvenile sex offenders. Considering the pair could have been tried as adults and thus could have faced much harsher sentences, Judge Lipps ignored their parents’ and attorneys requests for further leniency, saying the sentences were practically a slap on the wrist.
That didn’t stop CNN, however, from being all torn up about it.
In their coverage of the verdict yesterday morning, CNN anchor Candy Crowley and reporter Poppy Harlow spent the vast majority of the above eight minute segment lamenting Mays’ and Richmond’s dashed hopes and dreams now that they have been convicted of rape. “These two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart,” Harlow mourned, as if they were the real victims in all this. As if it’s the sentence and conviction that has ruined their lives, rather than their own actions. As for the 16-year-old girl who Mays and Richmond raped, humiliated and harassed? Crowley and Harlow didn’t even refer to her until the last few minutes.
CNN also showed a lot of footage of Mays’ and Richmond’s tearful reactions to their convictions, which Harlow described as “very hard to watch.” I found it hard to watch too, but only because they made me sick. The tears are, after all, a serious change of tune from the smirks they both reportedly wore on their faces throughout the trial, not to mention the lack of remorse they showed in text messages sent to the victim in the days and weeks following the rape, in which the biggest worry on their minds was being kicked off the football team.
Neither Mays nor Richmond indicated any real or genuine remorse about the assault following the conviction. Addressing the courtroom, Mays apologized for taking pictures of the victim and for sending the pictures around — “No pictures should have been taken,” he said — but did not apologize for or even acknowledge the sexual assault. And Richmond, when the verdict was read, was overhead sobbing to his attorney “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.” When addressing the victim’s family, Richmond apologized in vague terms, saying, “I’m sorry for putting you guys through this. I’m sorry.” There is little reason to believe these young men are sorry for anything besides getting caught, given that they have not and still don’t appear to grasp that digitally raping an unconscious or barely conscious girl is wrong.
But back to the real victims, the rapists. Crowley was equally as concerned about what the verdict would do to Mays and Richmond in the long term, asking CNN Legal Contributor Paul Callan, “What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?”
“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan said, forgetting about the life Mays and Richmond destroyed. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law. That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.” They’ll be haunted by that label for the rest of their lives because they are sex offenders, Paul. It should haunt them.
Here are a few better questions: What’s the lasting effect on the rape victim after she’s been sexually assaulted, humiliated, harassed, turned on by the people who are supposed to be her friends, and then slut-shamed and victim-blamed by her community and the mainstream media? What’s the lasting effect on a rape victim who, even after her rapists have been convicted, is viewed with less concern and consideration than those who committed those heinous acts against her by professionals like yourself, Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow? What’s the lasting effect on rape victims everywhere, who see what little regard you have for their experiences that you mourn the squashed dreams of rapists on national television?
While Judge Lipps’ verdict absolutely makes it clear that a person as intoxicated as Jane Doe cannot consent to sexual contact, and that having sexual contact with a person as intoxicated as Jane Doe is sexual assault, the way this case and verdict has been covered by CNN — and NBC, too, who referred to the case as a ”cautionary tale about oversharing online” like it’s an episode of fucking “Catfish”– indicates that society as a whole still doesn’t see rape as the incredibly serious crime that it is. The tone of Crowley and Harlow’s coverage paints Richmond and Mays as promising young men who made an oopsie, as if raping an unconscious girl is the same as cheating on the SATs. Justice may be served for Jane Doe in some small way, but we clearly have a long way to go before rape culture and those perpetuating it are put on trial. Thankfully, it’s never too soon to start holding them accountable.