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The Suburbanite
  • Charita Goshay: Case puts Steubenville in harsh spotlight

  • Steubenville is in real danger of becoming a national byword for stonewalling, the abuse of privilege and popularity, and the irreparable harm that can be inflicted by gossip.

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  • Steubenville is in real danger of becoming a national byword for stonewalling, the abuse of privilege and popularity, and the irreparable harm that can be inflicted by gossip.
    For months now, this hardscrabble place on the Ohio River has been roiled and torn over rape allegations involving a pair of Steubenville High School football stars.
    It is a case that practically has been shanghaied by social media — which may be a foreboding sign of things to come — and one made more difficult by people who appear to be more concerned about making it go away than about seeking justice.
    It centers on photos, blogs, tweets and Facebook postings involving a 16-year-old girl who appears to be unconscious during an alleged series of sexual assaults at several liquor-fueled high school parties on Aug. 11 and 12.
    Last week, a cellphone video surfaced in which several other boys who may have witnessed it were heard and seen joking and laughing about it.
    Who does that?
    REPRESSION, TERROR
    How is that no one, no one, intervened to stop it?
    How can it be that no adult was anywhere to be found at those parties?
    What else has gone on in this culture that hasn’t risen to the level of a police investigation — but should have?
    We hear of such happenings in India, Sudan or Serbia, and we shake our heads at the savagery. Yet in the small-town America that is Steubenville, the notion that a sexual assault is seen as a parlor game to some, that young women are little more than prey, has seeped to the surface like river sludge.
    This so-called modern world of ours isn’t nearly as civilized, enlightened or erudite as we pretend. Around the world, rape and other forms of violence against women are regularly employed as weapons of war, power, repression and terror.
    Last week, 20 women were sworn in to the U.S. Senate, the most in history, even as a young woman a world away took her last breath, the result of a savage gang rape and beating in India.
    Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the world’s most powerful people, was released from the hospital around the same time as Malala Yousafzai, the teenage education activist shot by the Taliban for daring to advocate for the right of Pakistani girls to attend school.
    SALVATION, SUFFERING
    In towns such as Steubenville, which have limped along since their steel mills turned to rust and their coal mines turned to dust, football is salvation. Harding Stadium is not simply a venue, it’s a cathedral where those who play the game well are venerated.
    Now, we know from the false rape case that occurred at Duke University that the worst often is assumed about athletes. The girl in question lied to her parents about where she was going that night. She got drunk and possibly was drugged. Like a lot of adolescents who don’t know what they’re talking about, she has posted sexually provocative statements online. The central question is, did she have the ability to give her consent that night?
    Page 2 of 2 - In this particular case, the lack of transparency and inability of authorities to combat rumors with coherence have allowed people to create their own narrative in Steubenville. And an already struggling community is suffering even more because of it.