A feminist following Steubenville

While I have mixed feelings about saying this, it’s been a big year for sexual violence in the media so far. Following a year of sexual abuse blowing sports culture out of the water, we’ve started off 2013 with protests over the Delhi Gang Rape and national outcry over the happenings in a football town in Ohio. I starkly remember the morning when a coworker popped into my cube with a warning that a new case was about to explode (note to readers, if you start a blog, people will come to you with ideas when they think something should be blogged about). Learning about Steubenville, and all of the blaming and belittling reactions that followed the case, was more than a little overwhelming for us. No matter how long you work in the anti-sexual violence movement, jarring cases and sickening responses will still turn your stomach.

Steubenville and some of the other recent cases make me sad in a number of ways. First, it’s 2013 and there’s still rape. I’d hoped that 2012 would be the end of it, but I guess I still have a job—oh well, maybe next year. Second, we still live in a world where people, and particularly female-bodied and gender-variant folks, are consistently and systematically devalued, objectified, violated, and disrespected.  Enough of this already. Third, people will still watch something like this happen and fail to stop it. They might take pictures and videos and post them online, but they won’t interrupt, make a call, or speak out about how wrong rape/ assault/ violence/ harassment/ bullying/ degradation/ exploitation/ you-get-the-idea really is. Fourth, our culture is still blaming the victim and refusing to hold perpetrators accountable.

Several reports have discussed how social media reactions have garnered a Twitter and Facebook-based judge and jury in this case. I typically take the position that we need more public outcry and calls for accountability when it comes to sexual violence. Ideally though, I would like to at least get to the place where it doesn’t take a media blast for people to make the choice to help or for systems to respond to these cases with empathy, respect, and accountability.