Just as the rulings were being handed out in the Steubenville rape case, another eerily similar story of high school sexual assault was gaining traction. As the world began to move on from a small town in Ohio, we were immediately pulled in to a small town in Connecticut, where two Torrington High School football players were being charged the statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls. (The number of alleged rapists has grown to four high schools boys now.) Now, the social media bullying that became an intricate part of the Steubenville case has reared its ugly head once again.
It started when a group of students started promoting the hashtag #FreeEdgar in support of accused rapist Edgar Gonzalez, who happened to be the lead scorer for the high school’s football team this season. Obviously, the school and students have already been happy to overlook his legal issues before, as the teenager was charged with felony assault last year for beating up a 14-year-old boy while looking for money.
Sadly predictable, those who support Edgar have to place the blame for this crime somewhere, and many of them point fingers at the victim. They throw around insults like “hoe” and “whore.” It’s a tactic that plenty have used when victim-blaming rape survivors before. No one is surprised to see it. But that doesn’t make it any easier for two tween girls who have to endure these hateful and ignorant attacks.
Equally disturbing to the victim-blaming are those attempting to shame or argue the rape apology with their own threats or suggestions of rape, specifically prison rape. There are an alarming number of people tweeting about this 18-year-old man getting raped in prison, with ingenious hashtags like #DontDropTheSoap.
I’ve never understood the proclivity of those who decry rape but then refer to prison rape as if it’s some joke, or somehow deserved. Sexual assault, no matter where it happens, is always despicable. And the fact that it has been allowed to continue in prisons around the country for so long is not some type of justice, it is a failure of our penal system, something that we all should be ashamed of.
I can not comprehend a person who feels like they are supporting rape victims by wishing such a horrible crime on another human being. Even as a rape survivor, I have never thought about my attackers and wished them the same pain. I have wished that they had compassion or caring for me as their victim, but I do not want them to learn it be experiencing brutality.
With the arrest of a fourth football player, whose name is not being released because he’s 17 years old, the case for Torrington does not seem to be dying down. Anonymous is getting involved, much as they did in Steubenville, to combat the victim-blaming and rape apology already present in the case. Teens on social media continue to make the story increasingly sensationalistic, making it prime news fodder. This depressing story will not be going away any time soon.
But as a nation, how about we try to do a better job in our response than we did in Steubenville? Let’s demand that our media do better when covering the case. Let’s treat everyone involved respectfully, but speak up when we hear rape culture begin to dominate the conversation. Let’s make sure that any teen who still doesn’t understand what rape is or how destructive it can be finally learns this lesson.