The Protesters of the Steubenville Rape Case Inspire Real Change

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steubenville rape protest

Even as Anonymous was leading a second protest in Steubenville yesterday, the sheriff announced that no other people would be charged in the alleged gang raping and kidnapping of 16-year-old Jane Doe by football players referred to as members of the “rape crew”.

This case appears to be steeped in cover-ups and conspiracies, from the County Prosecuting Attorney reportedly being the mother of one of the “rape crew”, at whose house an assault may have taken place, to the victim’s ex-boyfriend allegedly setting her up to be drugged and gang raped as revenge for breaking up with him. It’s disgusting and shameful and horrifying, but it’s also sadly not that unusual.

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What is unusual is that this time a group of mostly men, in a subset of Anonymous called Knight Sec, is leading a public charge against the rape culture and demanding justice.

Anonymous’ protests aren’t just impacting this case; in fact, because of the attention the Steubenville case has gotten, San Luis Obispo rape crisis agency in California has launched a “Start by Believing” campaign in order to promote the reporting of rape. Sexual Assault and Rape Prevention (SARP) Associate Executive Director Jesse Torrey explained, “If somebody discloses they’ve been sexually assaulted, you need to start by believing them. And if they are responded to with support, with validation, with ‘how can I help?’, with ‘this wasn’t your fault’…that’s the road to healing.”

Out of this horror, some salvation.

The Start by Believing campaign is a direct result of the Steubenville case. The SARP pointed out to Central Coast News, “(T)he Department Of Justice says only 36% of rapes are reported. Most go unreported for fear of shame or not being believed.”

“It’s horrifying to see the attitudes that we have in our culture,” says SARP psychologist Kimberly Lonsway. “Many people describe it as a rape culture where we go to great lengths to deny that rape exists, to trivialize it, to minimize it’s impact…even to the point of turning it into a joke.”

But with eyes now turning to social media, photos and videos documenting the alleged rape, nobody’s laughing.

Much of that evidence was deleted after the assault, but Anonymous found it and made it public again. Of course, no one would even know about this case were it not for a Alexandria Goddard, a blogger at Prinniefied in Ohio who covered it from the beginning and was sued over her coverage. Then Anonymous got involved and brought even more attention to it with their protests.

Anonymous protested again Saturday, and they are fiercely going after the folks who are protecting the alleged rapists. A victim who was reportedly drugged and lured into a trap for the specific purpose of being punished via gang rape and public humiliation is suddenly not alone.

Alexandria Goddard and a group of mostly men in Knight Sec found the rape culture protecting Jane Doe disgusting, so they took a decided, defiant stand against it. Hundreds joined the Anonymous-iniatied protests against the way this case is being handled. What we have here are men and women united against the rape culture — united in valuing humanity. Their actions are generating awareness and change. It may not be a cultural shift yet, but it’s a very good start.

Image: Screengrab from the protest via flickr.
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