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What Happened in Steubenville, Ohio Football Rape Case Goes Global Via Anonymous and Social Media

By January 3, 2013

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Steubenville, OH

Back in December when the New York Times published an in-depth look at a stomach-churning case of alleged gang rape and sexual abuse of an unconscious 16-year old girl involving members of a small town's much-revered high school football team -- and how photos and videos of the assault were disseminated through social media and Twitter -- the matter of the Steubenville, Ohio assault was far from an open-and-shut case despite ample video, visual evidence, and plenty of witnesses.

What's especially upsetting is that adults were present at one of more of the parties at which the assaults occurred, alcohol was being served to minors, none of the dozens of witnesses stepped forward to intervene, and many associated with the football team are defending the players and blaming the underage victim from nearby Weirton, West Virginia, for attending an after-game party and getting drunk.

Months after the August 11 assault, allegedly at the hands of the team's two star football players, the case continues to evolve and rally supporters across the internet, and its latest champions are none other than Anonymous, the international hacktivist collective -- specifically an arm known as KnightSec which targets rapists.

Earlier today Salon reported on Anonymous's leak of a disturbing 12 minute video of a young man describing the 16-year-old victim as "deader than Trayvon Martin," laughing about how she had been repeatedly violated, and telling friends he knows she's dead because "there's a naked picture on her, a wang in the butt and she wasn't moving. There's usually a reaction."

The off-camera giggling over these disgusting details and total disregard for the girl's life is hard to watch.

The Anonymous leak follows on the heels of the group's demand that a public apology to the girl be issued by January 1 or it would go public with names and information of the football players and staff who defended the teen perpetrators accused of the crime. No apology was issued.

The incident reveals the influence social media can have in crimes of rape, sexual assault and sexual violence. Groups like Hollaback!, the international movement to document and end street-level sexual harassment of women and girls, are actively using cell phone technology with its video and still-photography capabilities, to identify and publish photos of perpetrators caught in the act.

While these teens thought it was fun and cool to photograph an unconscious teenage girl being handled like a sex doll and dragged from party to party where she was violated and raped repeatedly, they were unwittingly documenting the commission of a crime and spreading these images to their circle of friends without realizing what they were doing. Although many subsequently deleted the photos, as reported by the NY Times a national crime blogger captured screen shots and continues to cover the case extensively on her blog,

Social media is quickly becoming a valuable weapon in the struggle to end violence against women. Police in the small insular town of Steubenville, Ohio, who might have been inclined to minimize the situation since there is little physical evidence to prosecute the alleged rapists, are now being held to a greater degree of accountability thanks to the visual records of the assault and the pressure of the whole world watching. What happened in Steubenville no longer stays in Steubenville. Thanks to social media, it's now all our concern.

Photo of Steubenville, OH Rick Gershon/Getty Images

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January 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm
(1) scallywag says:

Anonymous has also acted out in other instances to administer its particular brand of vigilante justice, as for example in the Amanda Todd suicide case. At present, debate about ethics, Anonymous taking the law into its own hands and potentially incriminating and violating the privacy of those individuals for simply expressing a point of view no matter how palatable that point of view has once again risen to the fore. Nevertheless it is becoming increasingly apparent the degree of power (rightly or wrongly) social media is having on bringing justice to the fore outside of traditional forums.


January 4, 2013 at 4:40 am
(2) Kathy says:

Linda, I’m stunned.

Even in the NYT story, there is no questioning of alcohol at the parties. There is no observation (or quote from a lawyer) that if you can’t give consent, then it’s rape.

The fact that the state could only recover two images seems evidence of a slowly moving investigation. I cannot believe that the phones and iPads had been reformatted; I’ve recovered “deleted” images from my iPhone by doing so immediately. And all those tweets and FB posts etc could have been captured immediately — or the court could petition Twitter and FB (Instagram) for images that provide evidence of a crime.

And no one wills step up to testify? And the coach let guys play for most of the season? Six months to trial?

January 4, 2013 at 4:41 am
(3) Lawbelle says:

Scallywag, while your point regarding vigilante justice is well made and well taken, history has shown that so long as injustice reigns inside the halls of so-called “justice,” citizens will take matters into their own hands.
The only way to stop these small town legal systems that treat citizens differently based on economic inequity (and Steubenville is only one of MANY such towns) is to OUT THEM.
Vigilante justice is one thing- should someone mete out a punishment in this case outside the legal system, that qualifies as vigilante justice.
TRANSPARENCY IS NOT VIGILANTE JUSTICE- and its high time someone (and apparently they must remain anonymous) forced the roaches out from under the rocks.

January 4, 2013 at 4:46 am
(4) Kathy says:

scallywag — I don’t see how this video is an invasion of privacy of the young man who is being interviewed. No one is claiming that Anonymous “made it up” or that this guy didn’t say the things he said.

January 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm
(5) Anne Caroline Drake says:

Prosecutors with far less direct evidence have won many convictions.

The prosecutor’s failure to pursue this case tells me that he/she is far more interested in football than justice.

The entire country of India protested a similar case. Why are we having such a hard time holding these punks accountable? The callous disregard for this young girl’s welfare ~ from supplying the alcohol to make it impossible for her to resist their advances to the failure to prosecute ~ happens too frequently in the US.

Bravo to social media!

January 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm
(6) madihwa says:

Just a thought, but I wonder how these young men would feel if someone, say, tasered them and raped them. Not so much fun anymore, is it? It’s so easy to call someone a whore. I came from a town like this. I was called a whore even though I graduated high school a virgin. Think about it. When people call you names like that; no one wants to date you. At the best they want to rape you. That almost happened once but I talked the guy out of it. Is it any wonder I ultimately stayed as far away from that town–and white people–as I could? My husband is Chinese. After going through that ages 9 to 18, white people just scared me!

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