Media’s Depiction of Rape Case underlies Stereotypes

If you’ve been living under a rock, here is what you missed:

On March 17th, two boys (16 years old) were found guilty in a Steubenville, Ohio courthouse [see bottom of blog for link to video] for raping a 16 year old girl from West Virgina. The girl’s identity is being kept confidential for privacy.

The way the media, especially a CNN reporter, is presenting the case is disturbing. A CNN reporter highlights the boys’ extracurricular activitiesand their “promising futures” while the girl is not mentioned. Yes, the reporter was just doing her job.

The CNN reporter states: “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…when that sentence came down, [Ma’lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney…He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’ Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the sixteen-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August.”

By framing the case as the CNN reporter did, the reporter is covertly and unconsciously perpetuating the stereotypes that exist regarding individuals involved in a rape. Some general thoughts that exist in society, but not actually in the CNN report, are: the male(s) in the situation “couldn’t control him/themselves”, “men are sexual creatures”, “the girl didn’t really mean ‘no’, she liked it”, “the girl was playing hard to get”, or “the girl must have been dressed provocatively”.

These are all wrong.

As a young woman myself, I am infuriated that this is how society, in general, views and understands such violent incidences of rape. Instead of pointing the figure at the girl (who didn’t ask for the event to happen to her) or pitying the boys who are, after all, in charge of their own decisions, why not point the finger at all of us in society. What about us as a society take part of the blame for what has happened to this young girl? 

Simple answer: because it is easier not too.

Here are some resources for victims of rape:
1. National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org
2. Take Back The Night: Date Rape Resources: http://www.takebackthenight.org/resource-category/date-rape
3. Safe Horizon (largest victim’s services agency in USA with 57 locations): 1.800.621.HOPE (4673); http://www.safehorizon.org

Resources in California:
4. San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR)’s 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline: (415)-647-RAPE
5. Bay Area Women Against Rape in Oakland, CA: Hotline Phone: (510)-845-7273 & (510)-430-1298
6. Highland Sexual Assault Center in Oakland, CA: Hotline Phone: (510)-534-9290 &  (510)-534-9291
7. Rape Trauma Services in Burlingame, CA: Hotline Phone: (650)-692-7273 & (650)-652-0598; Other Languages: Mandarin
8. SafeQuest Solano in Vallego, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-557-6600 & (707)-402-7800

SafeQuest Solano in Fairfield, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-422-7345 & (707)-4027800

9. Volunteer Center of Napa Valley Inc. in Napa, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-255-6397 & (707) 253-6100 ext.109; Special Services: Adults Molested As Children, Spanish
10. YWCA Rape Crisis Center in San Jose, CA: Hotline Phone: (408)-287-3000 & (408)-295-4011
11. Tri-Valley Haven for Women in Livermore, CA: Hotline Phone: (925)-449-5842 & (925)-449-5845
12. Women’s Crisis Support and Shelter Services in Santa Cruz, CA: Hotline Phone: (888)-900-4232 & (831)-425-4030

Link to CNN report to Steubenville, Ohio case: http://gawker.com/5991003/cnn-reports-on-the-promising-future-of-the-steubenville-rapists-who-are-very-good-students

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