Steubenville, Penn State: The bigger picture

Jessica Cuffman
Mar 19, 2013


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.



I agree completely. "Innocent" bystanders know what is happening is wrong but lack the courage to stop it. That is a major issue. I know these two stories are around schools, but what about the catholic church and their ability to simply relocate a clergyman to another diocese because they knew he was abusing the children in his own. Steubenville was one occurence, Penn State was one man with many occurences, but the catholic church was many members on many occasions. The message of the church is largely a good message, but the corruption and coverups are disgusting. All of these are tagic stories, and while the media focus is on the institutions and members involved, the victims are often forgot about.

Jessica Cuffman

Great point, WiseMan.


It is called "living in a rape culture"...


Are there not enough sorrows or enough lessons to be learned in these two heinous stories? Are the lessons the Catholic church are hopefully learning a necessary addition to this conversation?


It is absolutely necessary. Those who view sex as their entitlement are part of the larger culture that perpetuates rape, and as long as those in positions of power cover for such atrocities (Penn State, the Catholic Church, Big Red football), they will continue to happen. The priests are no different than Jerry Sandusky, who is no different than the Steubenville Rape Crew—they all believed they were above the law, none of them had any problems taking advantage of situations that gave them access to victims, and they all had people above them who were willing to cover their crimes. And in the end, none of them believed they’d done anything wrong.

To insinuate that one group should not be included with the others only further points to our rape culture—instead of being prosecuted, rapists in the church are moved to a different location and excuses are made for them. Excluding them makes no sense if intelligent and needed dialogue is to take place; they are part of the bigger issue and deserve to be included with other rapists and pedophiles of society.

By the way, if you think that the Catholic Church is learning any lessons, you are mistaken. Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of dealing with sex abuse allegations in his career and in 2010 it came out that he chose to overlook punishment for a priest who molested nearly 200 deaf boys. In 2012, a Chilean priest who had raped and molested many young girls, and even impregnated one, was only relocated, not excommunicated or de-frocked. It has become a global issue for the Catholic church, molestation and sexual abuse; more than 12 countries have recently had sex abuse allegations pouring out of them. The church continues to remain secretive, impede investigations, and tend to their image more than those who have been victimized.


I don't know when setting the Catholic Church up as an example is ever going to stop. Is this the only thing you people have to compare this type of action to? I agree it was wrong with moving priests from place to place. What I don't understand is what will it take for you people to stop comparing it to every act of molestation that occurs these days. I also have to say it was wrong for these students not to step in, but have any of you considered that maybe they were afraid of the consequences? From the sounds of it, there were many "big" boys there. You have to be in the witness's shoes before you can condemn their actions. Also, when is everyone involved going to take responsibility for their actions. College life is not a place to get so drunk that you have no idea what is going on. This includes girls and boys. It has happened before and unless things change, it will happen again. Students do not have to show how cool they are by drinking in excess.


How is that an unfair comparison? Maybe, not to the Steubenville case, but to Penn State. People, who were in charge of the Priest's and Jerry, knew these things were going on, and didn't say anything in both.
I don't feel like saying they were afraid of their consequences in the Steub case is an excuse. I know that these kids might have been stars in the community or physically "big". But I don't believe that can be used as an excuse for letting it happen. Would you be afraid to stop/turn in your boss from something like that? Or a person in an alley who, for all you know, may have a knife?
Utopia isn't real. People will binge drink, use drugs, even murder no matter how much you tell them it is wrong. You can not stop them, you must find the best solution for how to deal with these things when they happen.


Thank you, GG, for providing an example of a what a rape apologist looks like within a rape culture. What students need to do is not rape anyone. Ever.


In Steubenville alone, there were ELEVEN substantiated, accused pedophile priests, all involving children under 16, and some as young as 3 yrs old.

See http://www.bishop-accountabili...
with a pointer to the Diocese own web site.

Try and twist that in a different light, gg.


It's sad but true that women and children are allowed to be victims so that others profit from sports, pornography, etc. That's the American way, I guess. But at least in these cases, there was a tiny bit of justice. Not enough though because the victims are sentenced to a lifetime of hurt, whereas the perpetrators get very little punishment.

"Two teenage girls from Steubenville, Ohio, have been arrested and charged with sending online threats to a 16-year-old rape victim whose attackers were convicted after using social media to swap pictures, videos and texts of their actions.

"Let me be clear. Threatening a teenage rape victim will not be tolerated," DeWine said in a statement on the attorney general's website. "If anyone makes a threat verbally or via the Internet, we will take it seriously, we will find you, and we will arrest you."


Little girls sleeping in orange jumpsuits with no pillow and no cell phone tonight. Just an olive drab blanky and a mattress as thick as a slice of bread.

Well deserved.

I can't believe they didn't get it about the social media thing after what has happened. Completely brain dead?

Phil Packer

The media pretty much convicts these people long before the trial starts. Some day, an innocent person will have their life ruined by the media coverage of a similar story.


No, the actions of these boys is why they were convicted. They were convicted because they are rapists. That there was a large amount of evidence only made the process that much easier.

And for the record, the mainstream media actually supported these criminals:

Phil Packer

And the victim in this story is essentially being convicted too, because of the extensive media coverage.


Looks like they have another 6 nights with no cell phone.