Steubenville, Ohio rape victim threatened by ‘mean girls’

March 20, 2013

Talk about mean girls.

Two girls, ages 15 and 16, are charged with sending threats through Twitter to the West Virginia girl raped by two star football players last August. They are accused of sending the tweets Sunday after Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond were found “delinquent,” or guilty, in juvenile court Sunday morning.

The 16-year-old, a cousin of Richmond, allegedly sent a threatening tweet that said, “You ripped my family apart, you made my cousin cry, so when I see you b—- it’s gone be a homicide.” The Steubenville Journal-Star reported her older sister and guardian saying the line comes from a rap song.

The 15-year-old allegedly tweeted she would beat “the s— out of” the rape victim and apparently apologized later on Twitter.

Both girls were arrested Monday. The 16-year-old is charged with one misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing for threatening the life of the victim, and the 15-year-old is charged with one misdemeanor count of menacing for threatening bodily harm to the victim. They’re being held in the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center. An adjudication hearing will be held March 27 in juvenile court.

“Let me be clear,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a news release. “Threatening a teenage rape victim will not be tolerated.  If anyone makes a threat verbally or via the Internet, we will take it seriously, we will find you, and we will arrest you.”

Threats against rape victims – even those that have not made international headlines as this case has — are “not uncommon,” Tracy Cox of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center told CBS News.

And the fallout? “When victims hear about threats, it throws a blanket of silence over them,” Cox said. It’s hard enough to get rape victims to press charges and go through the justice system.

Attitudes are slowly changing, though, and that’s why the commentary from CNN after the verdict Sunday was so disheartening. One might’ve thought that with women covering the story, the victim would have received some sympathy. But instead, reporter Poppy Harlow told anchor Candy Crowley, “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — we literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.”

The case has been played out in social media. The rape victim was too drunk the night of the assault to remember clearly what had happened, but thousands of tweets, texts, photos and videos told the story and gave the prosecution the evidence it needed for a conviction.

Having raised a daughter through the tumultuous teen years, I still find it hard to understand how girls can be so cruel to each other. The young woman from West Virginia who was raped and humiliated that night in August deserves our support so she can go on with her life.

As Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla told CNN about the victim, “She continues to be a victim and be victimized … over and over.”

“And that’s what’s sad.”

 

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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