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Steubenville case sheds light on gang rape

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The months-long rape case first broken by ‘hacktivist’ group KnightSec has finally come to an end. Two minors were charged as juveniles and convicted of rape. Trent Mays, 16, and Ma’lik Richmond, 17, were openly sobbing as the guilty verdict was handed down in court on the morning of March 17, 2013.

To many observers, the verdict was no surprise. The case has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion like so many others before it.  Twitter, Facebook and other social media intensified the traditional media sensationalism and drove it to new heights. The offenders have been sentenced to at least one year in a juvenile detention facility and may be held until they are 21-years-old.

KnightSec, a splinter of the internet subculture called “Anonymous” by uninformed media agencies, is a group of young computer-savvy individuals banding together to carry out vigilante justice by bringing this case to the public’s attention. Anonymous itself is no organization, but a loose compilation of individuals united by a shared subculture and Internet hangouts. Many newsworthy events have been spurred by these individuals.

The case was originally brought to national attention by the posting of cell-phone footage recorded at the scene of the crime and recovered by KnightSec members. The video shows a group of teenagers joking about the rape of a girl, claiming that she is “deader than Trayvon Martin,” a teenager who was shot in killed in Florida last year. One adds, “she is so raped that her [genitalia] is about as dry as the sun right now.”

These teenage football players and friends proceed to laugh and joke further about their rape and humiliation of a 16-year-old girl.  The victim was drugged and shuttled from party to party while mostly or completely unconscious and was stunned to see the evidence being circulated the next morning.

This crime took place on the night of August 22, 2012, and the story broke nearly four months later as law enforcement and school officials allegedly tried to sweep the incident under the rug. Months later, authorities were still trying to piece together what had happened and who was involved with the cover-up. KnightSec members, acting on intelligence supplied to them by local sources in Steubenville High School, went public on December 23, 2012, and released a video threatening justice on the members of the “Rape Crew,” as the group of football players were already known to fellow students.

The Steubenville Police Department was forced to hand over the case to Ohio State Police after months of misconduct by investigators, including the Sheriff’s Office claiming that the incident was not in their jurisdiction and “inadvertently” deleting several pieces of evidence from electronic devices retrieved from perpetrators. Other electronic devices were mysteriously missing pieces of evidence when sheriff’s deputies cornered the football players on the field and sent them to the locker room unaccompanied to voluntarily hand over the devices.

When interviewed about the case, Big Red head football coach Reno Saccoccia was rude to reporters from the New York Times. When he was asked about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, after dodging the first question, he became agitated and threatened the reporter. “You made me mad now,” Saccoccia said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car. Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled, “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

Many feel that this case has exposed the “rape culture” in small town America, forcing it to the attention of the majority of American citizens. Anna Mulch, a UIS Visual Arts and Gender Studies student, had nothing but criticism for the media handling of the case as well as the teenagers themselves.

“It’s just another way of showing that women are still oppressed, especially with the fact that CNN was focusing on how the verdict would affect the boys and their family instead of focusing on how the trauma affected the victim,” Mulch said. “It’s disgusting that they essentially got a slap on the wrist. Did they know what they were doing? Yes. Why are they allowed to get away with it? If they murdered someone, odds are they would have been tried as adults.”

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