Let me clarify – Rape is wrong. Rape is always wrong. Rape should never ever happen in our society. In a truly free society both men and women must be able to decide who they want to have sex with, when they want to have sex and where. There are no exceptions. None. My opening paragraph below has been read by some that I believe that “rape happens.” No. This is not what I meant. I know that people do stupid things that shouldn’t happen. I know that our society has done very little, or better stated, not enough to protect women and punish those that prey on women. It is unclear to me why the Violence Against Women Act had such a hard time passing the House and the Senate. In an enlightened thoughtful, progressive society this should have been a no brainer. (BTW, I did an interview and long discussion about rape and rape kits.)

I must admit that I was paying little or no attention to the rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio. I was kind of shocked when the national news pushed the story. I didn’t get what the big deal was. Rape isn’t rare in the US (see data below). I thought that this was a typical case we see with kids in high school and college. There is no surprise that young boys do stupid, hurtful, awful things. Combine hormones and alcohol (and possibly other substances) and you have the soup of very bad things to happen. Now, it must be understood that I’m not trying to condone or minimize the crime that has happened. Rape is a crime. Rape should not be swept under the rug or hidden from view. (Did you know that over 900 women get raped in the US every day! Did you know that over 97% of men get away with rape?) Rape is wrong. Rape must be stopped.

I guess the really despicable thing that happened here (besides the rape) was that there were spectators. This doesn’t appear to be a case where guys forced a young lady into a dark quiet corner somewhere. This appears to be rape happening out where several people could see it and film it. This is very much like that Jodie Foster movie from several decades ago (where she gets raped in a bar and no one steps up to stop it). Nobody stepped up to help this young lady. Folks seemed to have whipped out their cellphones and started filming. To add insult to injury, some morons posted their videos to some social media web site (Facebook? YouTube?).

In a lawful, advanced society this simply can’t happen. I applaud the prosecutor for pushing this case. The teens who committed this act, plus the teens who stood by watching and filming this crime need to be placed behind bars. (Oh, and it appears to be a group of parents who have told their kids not to talk to the police, not to tell the truth…this seems to be obstruction of justice and they need to be prosecuted also.)

From NYT:

And that aspect of the case may not be complete. The Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine, said after the verdict that he would convene a grand jury next month to finish the investigation.

In an interview, Mr. DeWine said that while it was not clear that more people would face charges, prosecutors might consider offenses that include obstruction of justice, failure to report a felony and failure to report child abuse. State officials have interviewed almost 60 people — students, coaches, school officials and parents — but 16, most of them juveniles, have refused to speak to investigators.

Another more specific angle that this rape and these jocks clearly point out, is the “I can get away with almost anything culture that jocks have (had?)”. More from The Nation:

In this exchange we see an aspect of the Steubenville case that should resonate in locker rooms and athletic departments across the country: the connective tissue between jock culture and rape culture. Rape culture is not just about rape. It’s about the acceptance of women as “things” to be used and disposed, which then creates a culture where sexual assault—particularly at social settings—is normalized. We learned at the Steubenville trial that not only did a small group of football players commit a crime, but 50 of their peers, men and women, saw what was happening and chose to do nothing, effectively not seeing a crime at all.

We need to ask the question whether the jock culture at Steubenville was a catalyst for this crime. We need to ask whether there’s something inherent in the men’s sports of the 21st century, which so many lionize as a force for good, that can also create a rape culture of violent entitlement. I am not asking if playing sports propels young men to rape. I am asking if the central features of men’s sports—hero worship, entitlement and machismo—make incidents like Steubenville more likely to be replicated. There are many germs in the Petri dish of sports. Growing up I had the great fortune of big-hearted, politically conscious coaches, some of whom patrolled sexism in the locker room with a particular vigilance. As the great Joe Ehrmann has written so brilliantly, a “transformational coach” can work wonders. But different germs also exist. Ken Dryden, Hall of Fame NHL goalie, once said, ”It’s really a sense of power that comes from specialness…anyone who finds himself at the center of the world they’re in has a sense of impunity.”

This is the problem in a nutshell.