Dr.Dawg

Steubenville

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The conviction of two young men for sexual assault and the related offence of humiliating their victim on social media does not bring closure to this unmitigated cultural disaster. The entire episode and its interminable aftermath leaves one appalled and bursting with unanswered questions.

First, the justice system. I have no idea whether the sheriff’s office had to be pushed into arresting, or the District Attorney into prosecuting. But the national attention, much of it generated by the social media, couldn’t have hurt. In fact the outcry has been so tumultuous that it may well have been responsible for attracting the interest of the Ohio Attorney General, who will shortly convene a grand jury to determine if anyone else should be charged.

Secondly, there was the odd show of remorse from the two defendants after their conviction in juvenile court. It actually seems genuine. Yet, up to the very point of conviction, the lawyer for one of the boys was claiming that the sex was “consensusal”, and the other boy said “I didn’t rape anybody. I didn’t witness a rape going on.” (His apology, however, centred on circulating pictures of the victim, a crime in itself for which he received another year in jail.)

But what kind of morality is it that depends upon the outcome of a court case to find its expression? That requires a legal conviction to deliver the prick of a johnny-come-lately conscience, long after the behaviour that a normal conscience would have prevented in the first place? A conscience held in abeyance, depending upon a roll of legal dice to make its presence known? The very note of genuine contrition in the young men’s voices manages only to amplify the horror of this case.

And finally, the grotesque outpouring of misogyny in the social media and mainstream media comment threads—no links here, easy enough to find, unfortunately—that rivals the spew of racist commentary here in Canada when Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence were standing up for the First Nations. It makes me wonder anew what kind of society we are living in, and why I had so little inkling of the sheer depth of vileness it contains.

Tabitha Southey tweeted a satirical video in The Onion that sums it all up—even though it aired in 2011.



“This could be anywhere in America,” the Steubenville city manager, Cathy Davison, is reported to have said. Indeed it could.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on March 18, 2013 4:16 PM.

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