Steubenville Rape Trial Descends into the Slut-Slamming Hell Realm: Lessons in Toxic Masculinity

rapistsI’m really trying to enjoy the perfect New Orleans weather and the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.  However, it’s hard to avoid the twitter streams on two really horrible reminders of the darker side of American Life.  CPAC continues to reach new bottoms every year.  That, however, is not the worst thing to watch at the moment.

The Steubenville Rape Trial is currently streaming live and the Defense Closing argument is a good example of everything that is wrong with how men view rape.  The defense attorney just basically said the victim threw herself at  “that child” and gee, she drank a lot of vodka so probably said “yes” and forgot about it.  ABC News just stated that the rape victim “made plan to meet” attacker and characterized it as “incriminating.”  The defense strategy is that “date rape” doesn’t exist. So, basically all of our young women that go on dates have just automatically placed themselves in the position of saying yes to whatever their date wants.  Looks like we may have to bring back chaperones if this guy’s arguments succeed.

The defense stayed quiet with its date-rape-doesn’t-exist strategy, even as many of those following the case so closely finally saw the two accused high-school football players for the first time.

“There will be challenges for everybody in this case,” Special Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter told Judge Tom Lipps during a packed session at Jefferson County juvenile court, with a silent protest from Occupy Steubenville carrying on outside. “Holding these two responsible for what they did — that will be the easiest you will make.” Hemmeter’s opening salvo was unflinching — she named the victim as a courtroom video feed sent  it around the Internet, she repeated the word “degradation,” and she spared no details about how suspects Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond “repeatedly violated” the victim (who will likely not be named by the media, as is custom with alleged victims of sexual assault).

As we reported in our in-depth trial preview earlier on Wednesday, Hemmeter and her fellow prosecutor have been silent in the press and about the investigation, even as hackers tried to piece together clues. But within the first 30 minutes of the trial picking up in earnest after an hour-long recess, Hemmeter introduced evidence beyond what a rapt nation has seen on Instagram (above) and YouTube: she submitted as evidence and projected onto the courtroom wall two naked pictures of the victim, one allegedly taken and sent from the phone of Mays, the suspect facing multiple charges. “The person ushering her [to the bathroom] was Trent Mays,” said Hemmeter, insisting that the Steubenville High quarterback was present when the alleged victim realized she was inebriated beyond control. There is also a blanket with the alleged victim’s DNA.

Hemmeter also reiterated the controversial pre-trial testimony from three Steubenville High athletes who said that the alleged victim was not conscious while being attacked. Hemmeter said, rather graphically:

You heard the testimony that in the car, Trent Mays unzipped her shorts and slipped his finger into her vagina … They [witnesses] will tell you that Trent Mays tried to put his penis in her mouth and you’ll hear that Ma’lik Richmond was down by her feet and inserted two fingers into her vagina while she lay motionless.

So it’s now finally clear that the prosecution will rely on the pre-trial testimony and on social-media evidence we haven’t yet scene, all in an effort to discount the increasingly strong — if increasingly vile — strategy from the defense for Mays and Richmond. The defense was granted a last-minute appeal on Tuesday night to subpoena three of the alleged victim’s friends who apparently made incriminating statements to police that she had made plans to meet up with Mays and that she “was completely fine” the morning after. That would seem to give the defense its own trio of star witnesses from West Virginia, testifying against their “best friend,” to counter the prosecution’s three star athletes, who appear to be doing the same.

Rape will never be treated the way it should be until men in this country learn about and rebuke “Toxic Masculinity”.

Toxic masculinity has its fingerprints all over the Steubenville case. The violence done to the victim was born out of the boys’ belief that a) sexually dominating a helpless girl’s body made them powerful and cool, and b) there would be no consequences for them because of their status as star athletes (If you want to see stomach-churning first-hand evidence of this, check out this video of one of their friends gleefully talking about how “raped” and “dead” the victim was). The defense is basing their entire case on it, arguing that this near- (and sometimes totally) unconscious girl’s body was the boys’ to use because “she didn’t affirmatively say no.” The football community’s response—by which I mean not just the coaches, school, and players, but the entire community of fans—is steeped in the assumptions of toxic masculinity, treating the athletes and the game as more important than some silly girl’s right to both bodily autonomy and justice. Steubenville residents have been quick to rally around the team, suggesting that the victim “put herself in a position to be violated” and refusing to talk to police investigating the assault. The two players who cooperated with police were suspended from the football team, while the players accused of the rape have been allowed to play. The coach even went so far as to threaten a New York Times reporter asking questions about the case. (No surprise there: When it comes to male-dominated sports, toxic masculinity is the rule, not the exception.)

But sports is hardly the only breeding ground for toxic masculinity. Witness the recent, vicious bullying of Zerlina Maxwell by fans of Fox News. Last week, Maxwell was on Hannity and dared to opine that the best rape prevention isn’t about what women can do to protect themselves, but instead focuses on raising men who don’t rape. She also personally identified herself as a survivor of rape. What followed was a nearly inconceivable onslaught of misogynist and racist attacks, including repeated threats of rape and death. All because a black woman insisted that the work of stopping rape—“women’s work” if there ever was such a thing—requires men’s labor. Under the influence of toxic masculinity, the logical response to a man being forced or even encouraged to do something coded “female” is always violence.

The defense lawyer is ringing all the bells and whistles he can to declare “Jane Doe” a slut; including using the 16 year old’s name.

An expert testifying for the defense today said a teen girl reportedly raped by two Steubenville football players could have had an alcohol-induced blackout after drinking last August, but still could have made the decision to leave a party with the athletes.

However, a prosecutor said the expert had not been shown all the evidence, pointing out that the person had not seen three photos in which the girl appears to be passed out.

Kim Fromme, a professor of clinical psychology at University of Texas, who conducts research on the effects of alcohol, said her analysis shows the girl might have no memory of the night, but based on her evidence the girl was still moving, walking and talking, and could have consented to leave a party with the two defendants.

“It seems pretty clear she made a voluntary decision to leave with (the 17-year-old defendant),” Fromme said.

Much of her testimony focused on the difference between a blackout and being passed out. Fromme said the brain essentially shuts down if a person is passed out. However, a person experiencing a blackout from drinking can still function, but will have little or no memory of what they did. She said people have performed surgery or flown a plane while experiencing a blackout.

She said if the girl was doing things such as voluntarily walking unassisted down stairs, she was capable of engaging in voluntary decisions.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter showed Fromme a picture of the teen girl apparently passed out and being carried by the defendants. Fromme said she had not seen the picture. Fromme also had not seen pictures of the girl laying naked on a couch and on the floor of a basement.

Hemmeter said testimony from other witnesses that Fromme had not heard indicate the girl might have drank more than Fromme’s evidence indicated. Fromme estimated the girl’s blood-alcohol level at between .18 to .25, based on witnesses who saw the girl drinking. (Motorists in Ohio are considered under the influence of alcohol if they have an 0.08 blood-alchohol level.)

“So if she was sexually assaulted during that blackout, she wouldn’t remember, right?” Hemmeter asked.

“Yes … nor would she remember if she consented,” Fromme said.

Fromme appeared as a witness for lawyer Walter Madison, who represents the 16-year-old defendant.

It’s hard to watch the live stream and the live tweets for #Steubenville aren’t very heartening despite the number of outraged feminists providing commentary including @Karoli and @feministing.

It’s a damned shame that things are going down like this.  I have no idea–at this point–if the young victim will see justice but I do believe that this will discourage reporting.

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19 Comments on “Steubenville Rape Trial Descends into the Slut-Slamming Hell Realm: Lessons in Toxic Masculinity”

  1. dakinikat says:

    The Atlantic Wire ‏@TheAtlanticWire

    Update: Judge in #Steubenville case says he will announce verdict Sunday at 10 a.m. Central time http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/steubenville-victim-testimony/63192/

    This article includes snippets of the victim’s testimony.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hi Dak,

      This is an excellent piece at Yahoo News: Prosecutors may get conviction in Steubenville rape trial, but it will come at a cost.

      The cost being that witnesses who took and spread photos, did nothing to stop the perpetrators or help the victim will get off scott-free.

      • bostonboomer says:

        WARNING: graphic and disgusting!!

        As Westlake was heading out, he walked into the living area of the basement and witnessed what should’ve been considered a rather troubling scene.

        The girl was completely naked on the floor, laying motionless on her side, not far from where she’d just puked out of the side of her mouth.

        By her side was one of his teammates, Trent Mays, who Westlake testified was fully exposed and smacking his penis on the girl’s hip. Laying behind her was another player, Ma’lik Richmond, whom Westlake testified he saw penetrating the girl with two fingers, “halfway to the knuckle.”

        “It wasn’t what I expected to see,” Westlake testified Friday at the Jefferson County Justice Center here in this old Eastern Ohio mill town, where Mays and Richmond stand trial for rape. “I wasn’t really sure what to think.”

      • bostonboomer says:

        “Well,” Westlake said, “it wasn’t violent. I didn’t know exactly what rape was. I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.”

        Let’s ignore the obvious point that you don’t need to “force” yourself on a girl who is incapacitated by alcohol. Instead, let’s simply ask what did Evan Westlake do?
        “I said my goodbyes,” he testified.

        Goodbyes? And what exactly was the response from Mays and Richmond after having someone walk in on them in the middle of that moment – even if, as the defense is arguing, it actually was consensual?

        “They said, ‘I’ll see you Monday at football,’ ” Westlake said.
        See you Monday at football?

      • dakinikat says:

        Yup, welcome to US justice where the victim of a violent crime goes on trial for how much vodka she drinks but they won’t even look for the third rapist and they won’t bring all the bystanders and cheerleaders to trial.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Two of the accuser’s supposed “friends” testified for the defense. They both stopped speaking to her after she made the accusations. I’m glad their names were used. They deserve to be known nationwide as rape enablers.

    Kelsey Weaver and Gianna Anile

  3. RalphB says:

    This is just sickening and the behavior of almost everyone involved was grotesque. Trashing the victim should have less validity than a “twinkie” defense in rape cases.

  4. janicen says:

    Christ this is a horror story. It scares the crap out of me.

  5. RalphB says:

    BBC: The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’

    I know this was covered here via a link to great analysis on alternet but, were it not for Nixon’s treason, my own life may have been quite different. Even if mine were not impacted, the lives of 1000s of others would have been better. This should cause the rewriting of history to correct the record.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Just when you think it couldn’t have been worse something like this surfaces. Then again things just don’t change – leaders have sacrificed the lives of the “little people” throughout history for one reason alone – power.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ralph,

      I agree, but What about Johnson’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin fake attack? And going back further, what if JFK had not been murdered? He had already issued the order to pull advisers out of Vietnam–Johnson reversed that order as one of his first acts as president.

      • bostonboomer says:

        After that, Reagan/Bush’s treason in dealing with Iran to postpone release of the hostages until after the election.

      • RalphB says:

        If you want to keep going back, if FDR had set US foreign policy after WWII instead of Truman we never would have supported the French in SE Asia at all. Ho Chi Minh was our ally after all.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yeah, you can keep going back and seeing the history that went down the memory hole. I guess I see 1963 as the real turning point, but maybe not.