Yeah, it's a damn shame those two promising young men are being treated like convicted rapists just because, you know, they are. If only there was some way they could have avoided this. Like not violating an unconscious girl. If only, right? But here's the thing--I can pick out little clues about how they got this wrong idea in their heads that they could do this. It doesn't excuse what they did; they are old enough to know right from wrong. But they thought that maybe they could do this and it wouldn't be a big deal, because everyone would have their backs:
Testimony also touched the high school’s football coach, Reno Saccoccia, who had been criticized by some in the community for not doing more to discipline other players present. In one text message, Mr. Mays stated that he felt he had gotten the coach to “take care of it” and that Mr. Saccoccia “was joking about it so I’m not that worried.”You know, like you might get someone to fix a ticket for you. "Take care of it"--make the fallout from the incident go away. And even how the one young man, Mays, responds to his conviction is pretty messed-up:
Mr. Mays apologized to the victim by name, as well as to her family and the community. “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken,” he said.Well, no. Evidence was definitely a problem there, but I think the real issue was using another human being for sport.
But there is a lot of wrong to go around, here. There are other people, students and adults alike, who became aware of the incident without reporting it. There's the people who are actually taking issue with and harrasing the victim even to the extent of death threats. And then there is our very responsible media who allowed her name to be broadcast, because obviously, that's what she needs in her life right now.
Basically, saying that we live with a "rape culture" sounds like an accusation or an indictment against people who don't even recognize the ways they are letting a terrible crime be normalized. I think a lot of what contributes to it is a desire to "make things okay" by pretending it didn't happen, making the victim be quiet, allowing the perpetrators to go on about their business. We don't generally have good ways to talk about sex and consent because sexuality still has some cultural baggage related to sin or shame. But that's a pretty pathological response because it does allow rapists to go about their business, and it does shut victims up. And so the crime is repeated. Victims get shamed, rapists are defended or excused. The dynamic of rape culture is definitely a part of this scenario--and yet talking about it generates a reflexive "Fuck no"(on Twitter, on Facebook, in general.) The strong, victim-blaming reaction to the open discussion is a concern: one thinks of the attacks made against Zerlina Maxwell, who discussed her own status as a survivor of rape and placed responsibility for stopping rape with people stopping the actual act of raping, or even of microaggressions like the rape "humor" that seems to deny the seriousness of the act and dismisses the experience of those who know about it.
I don't know if there is a better way for it to be discussed, but it does seem like the pathology of denial and blaming are deeply entrenched. And I can't help but believe that continuing to talk about it is the only solution.