Victims versus rapists: who gets the sympathy?

By on March 27, 2013

By Anna Meany–

The recent rape allegations and convictions of two Steubenville, Ohio, teens has got journalist ethics in serious question.

To recap, two football players (ages 16 and 17) were found guilty of raping a 16-year old girl at a party. Most of the trial focused on the victim’s level of intoxication, which rendered her unable to consent to sexual activity. The investigation gained worldwide attention when text messages and inappropriate photos and video became evidence of the victim’s apparent inability to understand what was happening to her.

College students may push this issue away because media has greatly emphasized the fact that all three involved are in high school. We can easily give ourselves more credit because we’re older and, supposedly, wiser. But even though it’s taboo to mention in casual conversation, date-rape is a serious issue among college kids — actually, make that an issue among every age.

We’re in college. We party. And most of us drink the hooch even though we’re not of age.

By consuming alcohol, we acknowledge certain risks, like losing your favorite earrings or embarrassing yourself on Twitter.

But a woman’s body is always her own and when it’s violated, justice must be served no matter what.

Major news stations, who have shown minimal respect to the 16-year-old girl, apparently think otherwise.

The first problem I have is how news anchors keep calling the victim drunk, as if that puts some sort of blame on her. I feel like that’s an easy excuse for flagrant mistakes with severe consequences.

And if we are considering this line of thinking — if the jury attributed the girl’s drunkness as a reason to her being violated ­— could they also excuse the football players’ actions because they had been drinking?

It raises more questions about victims who are doubted, overlooked and dismissed and the portrayal of rape victims in news media.

Courts must assume all are innocent until proven guilty. Social media, however, has no such rules.

Fox News revealed the name of the 16 year-old rape victim, breaking journalism ethics and potentially putting the girl in harm’s way.

Most horrifically, CNN came under fire for turning their attention to the accusers’ grim fate, rather than attending to the female victim. They interviewed the athletes’ parents, expressing their sorrow and regrets.

As The Huffington Post writes, “curiously weighted,” showing footage of the convicted rapist’s family crying, elaborating on how damaged their lives would be rather than focusing on the victim’s trauma.

Why are we focused on the football players? They’re convicted rapists.

Do I really have to repeat that?

It’s so upsetting that this article even has to be written. Victims should be our number-one priority. I’m a sports fan,  but does one football team’s winning history have the power to overrule justice and rape?

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