In the Steubenville, OH Rape Case, Adults Should Have Known Better

The behavior of the boys is unacceptable, but where were the parents?

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Trent Mays, 17, left, talks with one of his defense lawyers, Brian Duncan, on Saturday during the trial.

What happened to a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, OH—in a car and in a house—was horrible.

What happened to her afterward was arguably worse. And even more horrific is the fact that adults who should know better were apparently part of the post-rape drama.

The teenage girl was raped by two Ohio high school football players, who were convicted of the assault. Had the boys not been proud of their violation, perhaps no one would have known about it. The girl, who had been at a party, had been drinking, and said she awoke to find herself naked, frightened, embarrassed and without any idea of where she was.

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Enter social media. The boys had taken pictures of her unclothed, and the photos—along with demeaning texts alluding to the incident—immediately made their way around school. One of the photos showed the girls being dragged by arms and legs, naked. One of the boys, even more stunningly (and belying any absurd claim of consent) was texting about what he was doing as it happened. Disappointingly, many students did not come forward to report the incident and refused to testify when summoned. Horrifyingly, adults at the school who knew about the episode—if only from the social media explosion—also did not come forward, despite the fact that they should a) be more responsible than teenagers and set a better example for them, and b) are legally required to report suspected child abuse. Is it that it was too embarrassing for the school or for the football team? Did they see the girl's humiliation and assault as appropriate penance for getting drunk at a party? Or—as the defense attorney argued—was this a girl who had been known to lie, and could not be trusted?

The last defense is particularly insulting, not only to the victim (and all rape victims), but to basic common sense. You've lied once; therefore nothing a person says is credible? That's ridiculous. Who among us has not lied—telling a couple their baby, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Eisenhower on a bad day, is adorable, or telling a bride in a hideous, cream-puff shaped dress that she glows? Or maybe telling a defense attorney that you respect him for standing up for a couple of callous, teenage rapists who were so unashamed of their behavior that they put it on social media? That is, of course, until they were facing jail time and pleaded for leniency, suddenly so sorry for what they had done.

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The behavior of the boys is unacceptable, but where were the parents—not just the parents of the attackers, but the parents of those students who refused to cooperate with investigators?

Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former GOP senator whose common sense and basic decency is sorely missed in Washington, said he will continue to look into the episode and its aftermath. "It's going to be broad, and we will follow the evidence wherever that evidence takes us," DeWine said. The facts already in evidence are damning enough. If arrests for interfering with a police investigation or failing to report child abuse are made, all the better. And maybe the court could order up some parenting classes as well.

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