Steubenville's troubling question: Is rape just a part of 'hook-up culture'?
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said the Steubenville case shows 'an unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex.' Others agree, and say something needs to be done.
The rape of a teenage girl at a series of parties in Steubenville, Ohio, last August – and the vindictive attacks against her on social media that followed – are raising troubling questions about whether too many of today’s youth are so desensitized to sex and sexual imagery that rape is becoming an accepted part of a “hook-up culture.”Skip to next paragraph
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On Sunday, two high school football players were found guilty of rape and disseminating a nude photo of a minor. Both could remain in juvenile detention until they turn 21. The next day, two Steubenville girls were arrested for threatening the victim over Twitter.
But Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is pressing further, saying that the case is emblematic of a wider cultural problem. Earlier this week, he announced he was convening a grand jury in April to investigate whether additional charges should be filed in the case. And on Wednesday, he announced an initiative to ensure that every Ohio county offers comprehensive services for rape victims.
“There seems to be an unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex. It is a cavalier attitude – a belief that somehow there isn’t anything wrong with all of this. Rape is not a recreational activity,” said Mr. DeWine. “We, as a society, have an obligation to do more to educate our young people about rape. They need to know it is a horrible crime of violence. And it is simply not OK.”
Only 36 Ohio counties have rape-crisis services, such as a 24-hour hotline, criminal justice and hospital advocacy, or community outreach, he said. His goal is to have all 88 counties have minimum standard services within five years.
Testimony in the Steubenville case suggested that many of the young people involved or present during the rape did not know the definition of rape, and were not prepared – or did not even know how – to alert authorities. DeWine says at least 16 teenagers at the party still refuse to cooperate with authorities.
Those attitudes are the result of many factors, activists and academics say.
For one, school sex-education programs typically focus only on abstinence or birth control, not issues like bystander intervention or violence prevention, which can help young people identify rape and avoid automatically blaming the victim. Steubenville highlights the need to open a more honest and comprehensive conversation among young people about rape, some say.
“Much of [rape prevention] comes down to what’s taught in schools or not. If we focus only on preventing unintended pregnancies or reducing HIV, we’re not necessarily getting to a place where we can talk about healthy relationships,” says Abby Rosenstein of Advocates for Youth, an advocacy group in Washington that is calling for national sex-education standards that include discussion of rape prevention.