COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – The sexual assault case in Steubenville, Ohio is over but the world-wide attention on the case has sparked a debate about blaming the victim for the crime committed against them.
Two Steubenville, Ohio high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were recently found guilty of sexually assaulting a female classmate after a night of partying. Nude photos and text messages were used as evidence against them, but the defense team emphasized the victim’s level of intoxication in an attempt to lessen her credibility.
Lowndes County District Attorney Forrest Allgood says blaming the victim isn’t a new strategy.
“I know that we in America will always prefer to blame somebody else other than ourselves when we do something. I think because that is a part of our national character, when a defendant gets on the witness stand and throws the blame on somebody else, that resonates,” says Allgood.
Despite the guilty verdict, outrage still surrounds the case. The defense and even major media outlets, like CNN and MSNBC, have since come under fire for what many call a lack of concern for the victim.
“If your friend or someone you know robs you and takes all your stuff, that’s not seen as your fault. But if your friend rapes you, then your often seen as to blame for that. So when they’re compared to one another, you really see how this “blaming the victim” is a big deal.,” says Nikki Kraft, a counselor at Safe Haven, a domestic violence shelter in Columbus.
District Attorney Allgood says defense attorneys blame the victim for one simple reason: it works. But those who counsel the victims of sexual assault say society still needs to be educated.
“Society doesn’t really understand about rape, that it’s not a crime of passion by any means. It’s a crime committed to gain power and control,” says Kraft.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says more charges may be filed. At least 16 others refused to testify in the trial.
Both boys will have register as sex offenders and remain in juvenile detention until age 21.