By C. Jeff Oakes
I don’t usually like reading the new articles posted on Yahoo News. The articles are usually nothing more than fluff, sensationalized, and politically biased. This is why I was pleasantly surprised to read
one of the finest pieces of intelligent journalism on the web ever, coming from of all places, the one site I avoid for news related to Criminal Justice and law. The article was written by Dan Wetzel, a sports expert for Yahoo News titled Steubenville High School football players found guilty of raping 16-year-old girl. The only reason I start this blog talking about this is because I almost expected Yahoo News to offer up some softened version of the case or try to make some excuses for the football players involved. I only say this because it seems in recent years that Yahoo has far more often than not failed to be a voice of reason, often serving more as a lapdog to larger news agencies with some political bias. This article did not appear as such.
For those unfamiliar with the case, here is the brief rundown.
In July/August 2012, some teen football players take a drunk, passed out, 16 year-old-girl from house party to house party in Steubenville, Ohio. She is passed out, so they have to carry her into the houses where they rape her repeatedly as many other teenagers watch–they even film and photograph the event. Later, they brag about it. The girl, knowing something had happened to her but not knowing what, found out about the abuse later when faced with further abuse and humiliation from some who either witnessed the event or heard of it. She and her parents went online and gathered evidence, which these two young men had brazenly posted on the Internet. Bringing the evidence to the city prosecutor, the
As matters of justice go, this was a case that was pretty cut-and-dry…but not really. The officials who would be handling the case would prefer not to, being as it was, a case involving the only means of pride in the dying town–football players. In small towns across America, football players are placed on thrones, as Kings of destiny, as the hope of the village amid a village of fools. As soon as the case broke, officials in the town sought to distance themselves rather than be the arms of justice they had sworn an oath to be. The prosecutor sent the case to another from Columbus, Ohio and the Judge was from Cincinnati–both felt they were too close to the case to properly mete out justice–either that, or they did not want to be the bad guys.
I am from a small town in America–25 years ago–and I can tell you that the case in Steubenville is really not all that unusual. The only thing that makes it strange is that these two criminals were caught–and that by their own hand.
The ordeal began when the girl somehow found herself in the street in front of one of the football players homes. She was drunk and throwing up. One of the football players had taken off her shirt so she would not get it messed up while throwing up. Several other teens laughed at her and one even jokingly suggested he would give $3.00 to anyone who would urinate on her. No one took him up on it as it was a joke–a stupid sophomoric joke, but a joke. As Wetzel describes,
Yet along with the joke came nothing else. No one thought to get the girl real help, to call her friends, to take her home, to assure she was safe and watched. She was just another drunk chick to be mocked, scooped up and used.
And used she would be right after this.
This story reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan found in the Bible. In that story, a man was beaten up and robbed on the side of the road. Several of his fellow Jews walked past and some even mocked, but a Samaritan stopped and helped the man by taking him to an Inn and paying to have his wounds tended. The Samaritans were looked down on in that society so the story is told to remind us that no matter our station in life, we should help those in need. Having come from a small town myself, I would bet that Steubenville considers itself a fairly religious community–in fact, I bet that every one of those who mocked and ignored the plight of this young woman…and raped her…has heard the story of the Samaritan at least once in their life.
To demonstrate this, look at the map I brought up via Google maps of the churches in Steubenville, Ohio. Every bold dot and lettered tag is a church and from what I could learn, virtually every one of them is a Christian Church. There must be 40 churches at least in this small town of 18,000 people. My question is, where were all the Samaritans? They certainly weren’t among the youth who crossed that girl’s path that night.
But I am not telling this account to denigrate the churches of Steubenville or those who attend–I only mention it because I understand small town mentality. Everyone I have ever known who has come from a small town where Football is God tells the same story as I noticed growing up and which is made starkly clear in this case–religion is a social club, nothing more, and Football is the savior, which is why the football players get away, sometimes literally, with murder…or rape. Not this time.
The city was acting as if they were trying to cover the matter up. Many citizens refused to cooperate with investigators, statements were made to reporters in weak attempts to convince the world that nothing serous occurred. Then an offshoot of Anonymous, Knightsec got involved–the group effectively placed a bounty on the heads of those involved in attempting to cover the story up. Anonymous threatened to release private information of many and made good on their promise in at least a few cases.
One of the things leaked by that group alleges that Head Football Coach Reno A. Saccoccia actively covered up evidence of some sort, attempted to thwart Sheriff Deputies from entering his office to collect evidence, and was providing porn, drugs, and alcohol to players who deserved these things, in his opinion–all of whom are/were minors. If you would like to read an excellent article about the entire situation, Buzzfeed carried an excellent timeline.
Although things such as this are only alleged by Knightsec and authorities are supposedly still investigating, I am not surprised. As mentioned before, from what I learned of life in the small town
where Football Rules, the rules are different, to be sure. The only reason I bring this up at all is that when it comes to criminal justice and the law, these are concepts that are largely missed in most small towns in America. Governors are constantly having to intercede in matters where small town mayors and police get the big head and think they can do anything they want. It is just part of the mentality that comes when economies falter and people must have a hero or hero’s.
What happened in Steubenville could have happened anywhere, so we need to remember that and not look down too harshly on the town. The people there do need a wake-up call and perhaps this is it–but in reality, many of us need such a wake-up call as well. The lack of general human compassion displayed in this case is not isolated to Steubenville, Ohio. It is far more widespread than we would like to believe. What proof have I of this?
Every 21 hours, there is a rape on a College Campus in America. Think about that.