Allison Barrie / The Silhouette

Well, it’s official. Steubenville, Ohio’s football team is ruined. The lives of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond are destroyed, along with their reputations as good students with promising football careers. Nothing will ever come easily to these boys; for the rest of their lives they will forever be publicly known as registered sex offenders.

Oh, I almost forgot, the 16-year-old girl that they raped might be damaged as well - the CNN glossed over that part.

This past Sunday, the most recent report by the CNN on their website mentioned the boys’ verdicts. According to Judge Thomas Lipps, they are guilty and will be sentenced to time in a correctional facility for raping a 16-year-old girl. However, the way that reporter Poppy Harlow presented the story makes the viewers sympathize with the two people involved in this case that should be receiving the least amount of sympathy in the entire story. In her piece, she expresses how emotional and difficult it was to watch these two young men apologize in court and realize that their lives would forever be changed because of the crime that they committed.

The problem here is that the media is so focused on sympathizing with these boys, that we forget about what they actually did. They took advantage of and raped a 16-year-old girl. She was drunk and she was passed out, but none of these facts should take away from what actually happened and how her life has changed because of it.

It all started in August of 2012 at a string of parties where the victim got very drunk and was raped by two members of the local football team, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond.

What started out as a small-town incident turned into a national issue and is now getting worldwide attention. Not only just because of what happened, but because these boys were star football players on the town’s prized football team. Matters have only gotten worse now for this young woman who was victimized when she began receiving threatening messages over Twitter simply because she testified against her abusers.

What message does this send to our society? The upsetting truth is that by reporting your case to the authorities, your perpetrator may receive justice. But in doing so, you will also be harassed and criticized by media and people on the opposition, especially if the accused are viewed highly in the eyes of everyone else. So now why in the world would a woman who was sexually abused even think about reporting her case? She won’t, and this is the problem that we now as a society need to deal with.

What we need to remember is that rape cases such as this in Steubenville occur all the time. The only difference with this case is that this young girl spoke out and got justice for the crimes committed against her.

The media and the people harassing this victim are prime examples of what is discouraging people all over the world from reporting similar cases. The common belief around reporting such crimes is that embarrassment, harassment and shame all come hand in hand with the justice that you may receive.

How do we fix this issue? We need to rethink how we report news and issues that are occurring everyday.

Although it may be easier to take a certain side on an issue, it’s important to understand all of the facts and understand who is reporting and what kind of bias might be involved. It’s easy to get swept away with a convincing story from a trusted news station, but one must also recognize the importance of understanding facts for oneself instead of believing everything that is said in the news.

In the end, we can all breathe a sigh of relief for this young girl as her case is now coming to a close and she can get on with her life, but the question of “what happens now?” will always be in the back of our minds. It’s impossible to predict how Trent and Ma’lik will live their lives and what kind of obstacles they will face with their new titles as sex offenders. What we do know is that they are not to be pitied for the mistake that they made. They’ll learn their lesson and eventually move on, and that’s all that can be said in their defense.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2023 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.