Some media coverage of that sensational rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio is under fire for focusing more on the rapists than the girl they brutalized. CNN, in particular, was castigated for coverage critics claimed was sympathetic to the two boys who were found guilty. Reporter Poppy Harlow expressed a strange mixture of emotions as she reported on the verdict. “It was very emotional. Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men had that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”
In a signed statement to CNN, almost 100,000 viewers petitioned their outrage over what they considered unbalanced reporting.
Not only the media, but individuals as well appeared sympathic to the boys. The rape victim was also the victim of taunts, jokes and threats. Two young girls were arrested Monday after being accused of making threatening comments on Twitter and Facebook.
Many people found similarites between the real-life courtroom drama and the satire run by Onion, the satirical website and newspaper. In the video a fictional school basketball players gets off the hook for rape and boasts that his greatest achievement is behind him—getting away with the rape, and he states, “I’m not just a rapist, but a basketball player first.”
The trial of the Ohio boys polarized the local community and attracted national attention. Text messages, tweets and photos were at the center of the trial. Fellow teens joked about it. One tweeted, “Song of the night is definitely rape me by Nirvana.”
Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine is disturbed by the attitude people have toward rape, “There seems to be an unbelieveable casualness about rape and about sex. It’s a cavalier attitude, a believe that somehow there isn’t anything wrong with any of this.”
Trent Mays and Malik Richnond tearfully apologized before the judge sentenced them to up to two years in a juvenile detention center and mandated that they be registered as sex offenders, something that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives.
Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, a clinical psychologist at New York’s Touro College offered one theory as to why so many people stand behind the rapists and not their victim. “As far as we’ve come, we still have a lot of sexist thinking that we have to overcome,” he maintains, “Because this girl was with the boys and were partying together, some people tend to think that perhaps she had something to do with being brutalized in that way and she put herself in that position when in fact she was totally innocent. She is the victim.”