Steubenville Rape Trial Divides Ohio Community

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A rape case against two high school football players has rocked the town of Steubenville, Ohio, a small community of 18,000 residents in the Ohio River Valley. The case goes to trial today.

The victim, a 16-year-old girl from a West Virginia town just across the river, accused the players of rape last August in the wake of a party held by a volunteer football coach. The girl apparently left the party with the accused players. Tweets, photos and videos suggest that the girl may have been sexually assaulted and urinated on throughout the evening.

The Steubenville case gained national attention over the last few months, as the drama unfolded on social media, and particularly in the wake of the gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi. Rachel Dissell, reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has covered the Steubenville story since the beginning.

According to Dissell, the tone of Steubenville is tense as residents struggle with the onslaught of reporters and national attention, but there is also a sense that this trial is an opportunity to have a larger discussion and find some truth. "The type of sexual assault that this is is probably one of the most common ones that you would see across the country…but it’s not one that is often in the media spotlight. Mostly media tend to report on stranger rape cases," says Dissell. "So while this is very common, this much attention is not often given to it and to issues like this."

She attributes this heightened attention to the circumstances: football players are involved and football is so important for the town; people know everyone involved so well; there were concerns that the case wouldn’t be handled appropriately because of the personal connections and because of the important role social media played. "It became a larger discussion of what some anti-sexual violence groups would call a 'pervasive rape culture.'"

On a local level, the school district is in the early stages of addressing the issue of sexual violence. "The Steubenville schools did reach out to some Ohio sexual assault agencies that do prevention to at least start a conversation about how they can make sure they’re incorporating the right messages into the school system in terms of how to talk to students about what type of sex is consensual and what's not," says Dissell.

"At least it’s a start. But right now it’s too soon to tell what will prevail there."


Rachel Dissell

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]

George Sands from USA

Sadly only 400 miles away another group was discussing military rape in front of the senate. The situations are similar, men in uniforms raping and people ignoring it. There are a lot of former military in Ohio so the fact they have a rape culture doesn't surprise me. Rape by those you know and trust is sometimes worse because it's hard to accept someone you trusted would want to hurt you. But these guys in Steubenville are so horrible. Someone pointed out they called themselves the "rape crew". They were proud of what they did. Similar to the military.

Mar. 13 2013 10:53 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I would hope that this case would change the way Steubenville students and residents treat women...
I hope that rapes such as these are treated equal to when a stranger rapes a woman. There is no difference. In fact, I could see situations like knowing your rapist as a worse scenario.

Mar. 13 2013 02:11 PM

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