CNN is getting a lot of backlash for recent coverage of a rape trial that took place in Ohio last week, in which they victimized the defendants instead of the victim of this crime, a 16 year old girl. Poppy Harlow, a CNN reporter was live on the scene and did a report for Candy Crowley, the anchor in which she said:
“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, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.” (This quote is taken from a transcript published by the Washington Post)
This is a disturbing way to describe this case for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that 16 year old Ma’lik Richmond and 17 year old Trent Mays were both found guilty. This isn’t just speculation that the two “very good students” with “promising futures” committed such a serious crime, it’s a fact at this point. CNN is making these two seem like the victims here, rather than the 16 year old girl they took advantage of.
In fact, most of the coverage of this case has been talking about how much alcohol was involved at the party, and how the accuser didn’t remember most of what happened that night because she was under the influence. Even if this is true, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to violate someone else. The accuser even said that she was afraid to mention the defendants by name because she was afraid. She said that she didn’t want to talk about them at all “because I knew everyone would just blame me.” What is wrong with our society when a rape victim can’t be helped because she’s too afraid of what people are going to think? This is rape culture, ladies and gentleman. And it’s true that this is how she was portrayed, especially by CNN. Even though they didn’t really mention her at all or talk about her feelings, the absence of this kind of rhetoric and only talking about the “promising futures” of the star football players-turned rapists only increases the “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to talking about rape.
There was a lot of backlash from feminists on Twitter, including Jessica Valenti, who had this to say:
Rape culture is a culture in which athletes, particularly male athletes, are treated like rock stars and therefore are not held accountable for their actions, no matter how despicable they are. Even when they’re found guilty of the aforementioned crimes, they still are held to different standards. They are shown sympathy because their “lives are over” and the victim is subject to hearing that since there was alcohol at the party, she must have been partly to blame for what happened to her. Rape culture is a culture in which a 16 year old girl is afraid to seek justice because she doesn’t want to be seen as a “slut” or a “whore”.
Rape culture is American culture, unfortunately.
For more on this case from a feminist point of view, I would recommend this article from feministing.com.