In a nation as large and diverse as America, it is difficult to encapsulate society in one snapshot, although there are some broad generalizations that could be made about the nature of what it means to be American. There is, though, a particular aspect of American society that stands out as noteworthy and remains a blemish on the national character that remains unchanged over the past century, and became an overriding issue in the 112th Congress. The horrendous events surrounding the vicious assault and dehumanizing treatment of a 16-year old girl in Steubenville Ohio have shocked decent human beings around the world, but Americans should not be the least bit surprised because the patriarchal mindset of the rapists, and their supporters, are a microcosm of conservative Christians and their legislative arm – the Republican Party.
Americans joined citizens of other countries who were outraged after a young Indian woman died from her injuries after being gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi by six men, and despite the opinion that “it could never happen in America,” a young woman was gang-raped in a similar situation by well-respected football stars. The only difference was the 16-year old in Ohio was not beaten to death, but she was brutalized and certainly the victim of violence at the hands of a group of young men. The violence against the young woman, and yes, rape is the worst act of violence possible against a woman, is beyond the pale, but the response and support the savages guilty of the crime are receiving is typical given the recent attacks on all American women at the hands of Republicans.
Whether it is the hideous legitimate rape, rape by medical instrument popular among pro-life Republicans, or the House’s failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), there is a mindset in this nation that protects men who violate women. It is no wonder the rapists are flummoxed by the outrage from decent Americans at the severity of their crime, or that supporters in the Steubenville community are attempting to portray the rapists as victims. It is what a patriarchal society does when men victimize women with impunity and tacit approval of so-called Christian conservatives, and why America’s society is no better than any male-dominated tribal society.
Republicans spent nearly all of the 112th Congress prosecuting a war on women that reveals their opinion that women exist solely to serve as objects of male dominance whether it is as birth machines or the subject of male rape culture. Rape culture is the fact that 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and like the Steubenville rape gang’s crime, our culture reflects on how badly the perpetrators lives will be affected with no regard for their victim. In fact, when a New York Times article reported the gang rape of an 11-year old girl in Texas, they quoted residents concerned about the effects on the rapists’ lives and questioned the victim’s makeup and dress. The residents wondered “how the young men could have been drawn into such an act,” and not how they chose to repeatedly rape a young girl. At the start of the 112th Congress, Paul Ryan and Todd Akin attempted to redefine violent sexual assault in terms of the “legitimacy” of a rape, and although the notion that violent sexual intrusion would be considered illegitimate offended decent Americans’ humanity, conservative pro-life Christians cheered the GOP language.
When the 16-year old victim’s parents went to police and district attorney to report the brutal assault of their daughter, they were discouraged from pressing charges with frightening warnings that it would take at least 2 years, drag the victim’s name through the mud, and cause the girl undue trouble, and it is a major factor in promoting the rape culture. It is part of America’s rape culture to either throw rape cases out or pressure victims into dropping charges because the justice system does not consider them legitimate; many victims are too afraid to press charges or testify. It is part of a patriarchal belief system that promotes the normalization and trivialization of rape, and encourages the idea that male sexual aggression is the norm, and that violence and aggression are themselves sexy; like high school football players.
The Steubenville rape gang has been protected by a culture that prompted the high school football coach to claim outrage at the rapists’ actions was detrimental to his football program, the victims fault, and concerns that the young men’s’ college aspirations are in jeopardy eventually threatening a reporter and their family with retribution. What is stunning is the cold brutality of law enforcement and prosecutors who have given more attention to the perpetrators and little, if any, regard for the girl who was carried from party to party and brutalized while she was drugged unconscious making her assault illegitimate and not an act of violence. It is important to note that House Republicans failed to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act because they questioned the legitimacy of protecting all women from violence and sends the message that women are not worthy of protection from violence.
The Ohio incident is not an anomaly, and without an all-encompassing investigation and prosecution of the rapists, derelict law enforcement officials, and community support groups, these common occurrences will continue unabated. It is insufficient to leave any witness, accomplice, law enforcement official, parent, and prosecutor unaffected because until the full weight and force of the law is brought to bear on the ever-expanding rape gang, these events will happen in several American communities every weekend.
What may be the most troubling aspect of the Steubenville crime is the abject inhumanity of so-called human beings who, for five months, knew that this human atrocity occurred and conspired to cover it up. When one thinks that participants at three different parties, law enforcement, prosecutors, football coaches, and other football players knew the rapists brutalized an unconscious young woman and failed to raise an alarm is an indictment on America’s patriarchal society that conservatives are wont to boast makes America exceptional. However, it is the logical conclusion after Republicans in Congress and GOP-dominated state legislatures spent an entire session relegating women to objects in subjection to a man’s will and worthy of illegitimate rape, medical instrument rape, and unworthy of protection from violence. It is no wonder America is steeped in rape culture and, tragically, the price women pay for living in a patriarchal society that follows, to the letter, the edicts of the Christian bible that dictates women are subservient to men and exist for their pleasure whether they are wives, co-workers, or drugged-unconscious 16 year old girls.