Leave Feedback

no avatar

Steubenville, Penn State: The bigger picture

Jessica Cuffman • Mar 19, 2013 at 3:24 PM

It's a horrific story, the rape of a 16-year-old girl as she was paraded from party to party by Steubenville football players last year.

She was treated as a "toy," as prosecutors described in the trial that ended with guilty verdicts for two boys charged with rape. Both were sentenced to juvenile prison. 

I don't live in Steubenville. I didn't go to Penn State. So the only perspective with which I can judge both these disasters, these cultures, in which a "legendary" assistant football coach raped children for decades and a 16-year-old rape victim struggled for justice, is by the media that covered both fiascos.

They're parallel stories in a way, about victims fighting for justice against systems and cultures that seemed to protect rapists.

In the end, Jerry Sandusky was convicted, sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, and college administrators who appeared to have contributed to the cover up of his crimes were fired.

Monday, the Steubenville teens were convicted. What happens to the other teens who witnessed their crimes, recorded them, and spread them as wildfire across social media remains to be seen. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he's identified 16 witnesses in all.

The lesson to be taken away from both these stories isn't just about what the victim suffered or how the perpetrators are being punished.

It's about recognizing the culture that almost allowed life to go on at State College and in Steubenville as if nothing happened.

It's about stepping up when you're in a position of authority, or as a witness, or as someone who just knows right from wrong, and doing something about it.

Reporting Jerry Sandusky to police rather than conspiring about how to keep him away from potential victims.

Telling the Steubenville rapists to stop, to leave the girl alone, and standing up for her rather than recording the crimes and posting them online.

It's about refusing to be part of any culture that victimizes a victim or ignores and tries to cover up crimes.

And it's about more than just trying to not be part of the problem — it's about taking an active stance against it.

Because if we don't, it will happen again.

Recommended for You