Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio were found guilty of rape in a juvenile court over the weekend and CNN chose to frame the story in a very disturbing way. Instead of just relaying the facts of the situation, CNN repeatedly focused on what a difficult time it must be for the two convicted young men, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond.
Raw Story linked the video of CNN’s over-the-top coverage. The core of the story is framed within the context of how the lives of these “two promising young men” are now ruined.
Editorializing or having a spin (whether subtle or more blatant) is nothing new for news programs, but this particular angle is dangerous. It promotes rape culture. Such a focus on how “awful” it must be for the boys makes it seem like something happened to them as opposed to them being punished for their actions. Taking the slant CNN took erases the real victim.
The real victim here is the 16 year old girl who was sexually assaulted by these boys and was victimized again via social media/technology as videos and pictures of her from the night in question were passed around amongst her peers.
She is the victim. If you are to have a sympathetic angle, let it include her. The rape and subsequent trial/sentence did not “happen” to those boys. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take a good look at everyone involved in this crime.–the victim, the perpetrators, the people who stood around and did nothing, etc. We, as a society, should absolutely take age and home life and all of those things into consideration when dealing with juvenile crimes. These young men are teenagers and should be treated as such.
However, we must never treat rape like it’s a condition that someone catches. Rape is a crime that has long lasting psychological, emotional and sometimes physical effects.
CNN, do better.