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The Injustice of Vilifying Rape Victims

The recent trial and conviction of two Ohio teens for the rape of an unconscious female brings to light a number of questions, including: Why would somebody vilify a rape victim? Don’t people view the crime of rape as a violation of a person’s rights? And, quite frankly, where in the hell is the justice?

Jefferson_County_Courthouse_in_SteubenvilleThe two Ohio teens, both “stars” on the football team, were so popular, it seems, that the local authorities were hesitant to make a case against the rapists–even though there was a video of the attack. It required a hacking group, Anonymous, to hack the video of the rape in order to gain public attention for the case. Only after the subsequent public backlash did the authorities take action. (1)

The travesty of ignoring a violent crime for the sake of the perpetrators’ reputations didn’t end there and it didn’t stop with the local authorities. After the trial, some in the mainstream media added salt to the open wound when they sympathized with the convicted rapists, even lamenting: “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — we literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.” (2)

While both the local authorities (at least prior to the arrest) and many in the mainstream media sympathized with the plight of the rapists, so did a number of regular citizens; some simultaneously vilified the victim. For example, two teen girls were arrested for threatening the victim. (3) It should be noted that one of the girls is related to one of the rapists, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a rapist and the victim is a victim. A number of other people from across the country also blamed the victim. One such example is a DJ at the radio station 88.3 FM WXUT – Toledo, who tweeted that, to paraphrase, the victim was to blame for behaving improperly. (4)

Indian_subcontinent_CIAThis vitriolic response to a rape victim is not relegated to the United States; it is regretfully seen world-wide. In India, two recent cases of women being brutally gang-raped has caused a backlash from authorities as well as citizens criticizing the victims. (5) (6) This is just one international example. Pick a country–any country–and you’ll find a similar story.

So, why am I disgusted by the degradation of rape victims? Why am I infuriated at the coddling of rapists?

Our bodies are included under our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. Thus, in a free nation, where individual rights are upheld, your body belongs to you; my body belongs to me. This means that we get to decide with whom we have sexual relations and when. Only in a state of barbarism, where individual rights are not upheld are individuals forced to submit to unwanted sexual advances and condemned for being violated.

Constitution_signatures-smallIt doesn’t matter if you are a woman, man, teenager, or child; it doesn’t matter what geographical location you call home; it doesn’t matter what you claim as your political or religious beliefs; it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is; it doesn’t matter what amount of education you have or don’t; it doesn’t matter if you’ve made mistakes in your life or if you’ve lived as a saint. Nothing can change your right not to be sexually violated. And any sexual interaction that is forced upon you and, therefore, occurs without your consent, is a sexual violation. (Of course, there are circumstances where consent cannot be given, such as by children or the mentally disabled).

Justice demands that individual rights be protected–that is what our laws are for; that is what we have police and courts for. When a person is raped, his or her body has been horribly violated and this deserves justice–justice from the laws, police, and courts. And when the authorities ignore or chastise the victim for having been victimized, they are neglecting the duties they were charged with when they swore to uphold the law because that law is based on the protection of individual rights.

The media and the public are different in that they have not sworn to uphold any law as a part of their job. Also, as citizens in a free country, they are certainly afforded the right to speak their minds. However, every person in a free society is bound not to violate another person’s rights just as every other individual is bound not to violate their rights. Because of this, we should want other people to respect individual rights; we should want people to condemn those who violate those rights.

So what’s the moral to the story?

If we stand for the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we stand for these rights for everyone and we need to start acting like it. Between the injustice of the act of rape and the horrors suffered by the victim, our gentler sentiments should be saved for the victim. Likewise, we should save our horror and condemnation for the rapist for violating the rights of another person. Because, at the end of the day, if actions such as rape are not condemned, we risk them becoming viewed as acceptable by an unwritten rule.

References:

Please note that the articles are a bit graphic, though factual, in regards to explaining the crimes.

(1) http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/01/03/steubenville_ohio_rape_anonymous_gets_involved_and_the_case_gets_even_more.html

(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/03/18/steubenville-the-media-and-rape-essentially/

(3) http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/19/two-steubenville-ohio-girls-arrested-threatening-r/

(4) http://www.toledoblade.com/TV-Radio/2013/03/19/UT-disc-jockey-s-Steubenville-Twitter-comments-sparks-outrage.html

(5) http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/03/18/swiss-tourist-partially-to-blame-for-gang-rape-indian-police-say-as-six-men-appear-in-court-for-attack/

(6) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57561187/indian-gang-rape-victim-dies-in-hospital/

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