September 26, 2020

By LINDSAY TESSIER

Last summer in Steubenville, Ohio, a 16-year-old girl was intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness. She was carried from party to party, where two high-school football players allegedly raped her, photographed her, flashed her breasts and urged others to urinate on her.

What is perhaps most horrifying is that so many people stood idly by, doing nothing to help this girl, with many taking part from the sidelines, taking photos and video, and even tweeting inappropriate remarks about the assault.

It would be easy to brush the inaction of these teenagers as a random occurrence, or simply vilify them as monsters and rush to say, “That could never happen here.”

Only it does happen here. It happens every day.

Attorneys for the young men were quick to place blame on the alleged victim. One of the attorneys, Adam Nemann, told the New York Times that the girl was conscious enough to give consent because, “She gave out the pass code to her phone after the sexual assault was said to have occurred.”

Walter Madison, lawyer for the other boy, said online photographs and posts could ultimately be “a gift” for his client’s case because the girl, before that night in August, had posted provocative comments and photographs on her Twitter page. He said those online posts demonstrated that she was sexually active and showed that she was “clearly engaged in at-risk behaviour.”

We need to combat these kinds of victim-blaming and slut-shaming messages and stop perpetuating myths and stereotypes about sexual assault.

No amount of risky behaviour could make a survivor responsible for a crime committed against him or her.

We need to stop being bystanders when it comes to violence against women.

Try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them. Speak out when you see and hear attitudes and behaviours that degrade women and promote rape. When friends make jokes about rape, call them on it. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor to complain. When laws are proposed that limit women’s rights, let politicians know that you won’t support them.

Do anything but remain silent.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.