Thoughts on Preliminary Findings

Thoughts on Preliminary Findings

Kids in Steubenville are in some serious need of social technology education. First, the boys film and post the video to all realm of social media. Second, kids comment and tweet about it, some even threatening the victim. Third, the victim allegedly sends a text message to the perpetrator and says that she knows he didn’t rape her.

What are they thinking?

You would think that they would get the message (due to the thousands of cases in which this type of technological ignorance has landed teens like themselves in tons of trouble) by now to keep it off the internet and off their phones. If the United States possesses the ability to detonate a bomb 7,000 miles away with the push of a button, do we not think they have the ability to read our text messages? Come on, our parents have the ability to do that.

This is what has been on my mind since Tuesday, and it’s something that came up over and over again in the blogs I was coding. There’s a growing movement in schools to impose some sort of technological education program and I am all for it. Kids need to know that they are digging their own graves (so to speak) when they post this type of thing. If we can just get them to think before they post, this type of thing wouldn’t happen.

 

But I digress. After all, this case isn’t about technological ignorance. The victim would still be a victim regardless of whether or not one word had ever been posted online. They are two different issues but one cannot separate. We wouldn’t know about this case if it were not for the indiscretions of a few teenagers. The boys probably wouldn’t be in jail. The victim would be just that, a victim, not a household idea (I say idea because we do not know her name, no thanks to FOX). In fact, she wouldn’t even know what exactly happened if it had not been posted.

After discussing our findings, I am grateful for a few things. One, it doesn’t seem as though the victim was framed too harshly or even at all. In all the blogs I coded, she was addressed as a 16 year old girl, a victim, etc. None every made her out to be anything but what she is, despite the mistakes she made that night that put her in the situation from the beginning. The boys carried it out and they are the ones who should and are being punished but this is another education issue that can and should be addressed. Have a plan, girls. Don’t rely on boys to be gentlemen because if Steubenville is any indication, they won’t be.

I’m also grateful that they named it rape, though her text message certainly poses some question to that effect. When I was coding, one of the scenes that continued to be described over and over again was the verdict coming down and Richmond collapsing into the arms of his attorney. He understood, in that moment, that he was going to be held responsible for his actions.

steubenville 3This picture is clear justice and heartbreaking at the same time. This 17 year old kid has been informed that his crime is recognized for what it is and he is going to be punished. He will be forever placed on the National Sex Offender Registry. He will be ostracized, placed in juvenile detention, and forever defined by his actions. The technology in this case is something to be thankful for, as the verdict could be delivered with little question. However, in the days before all of the technology, I do wonder how this case would have gone differently given all the same facts and evidence.

After receiving the information for our coding, reading the blogs and trying to piece together what actually happened, one thing is clear. There is much that we don’t know about this case; and I believe we will continue to learn things that will surprise us. The boys are on the National Sex Offender Registry for life, the victim is trying to heal from a traumatic event that she doesn’t remember (probably making it even worse), adults are being charged for acting like children and “not telling,” and the poor investigators on this case are trying to get through it all.

Related articles

Team Paper Thoughts

The Steubenville rape case has provided a huge amount of conflict and controversy throughout the country and in my own mind.  In researching this event, I’ve been forced to ask myself questions I’ve never encountered before.  As I learn more and more about this case, I am surprised by how many angles there are to it.  When the story first came out on the news, it was portrayed as a simple rape case with two assailants and one victim.  However, the more I look at the facts, the more I can’t help but feel sorry for the assailants as well as the victim.  Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous to say.  After all, how can anyone have anyone have sympathy for rapists?  It is undeniable that rape is a gruesome tragedy and that all those who commit the horrible act should be punished.  However, it is important to define exactly what constitutes rape before calling someone a rapist. 

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In the case of Steubenville, the two assailants actually digitally (finger) penetrated the victim.  It is also important to note that this was not the first time digital penetration occurred that night.  The victim had no problem with it in the back of a car a few hours before the incident, and she was conscious during that time.  In reading some of the eyewitness reports, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Hays don’t outwardly appear to be violent, evil, perverts to me.  They look more like frightened teens who made some horrible decisions.  In the courtroom videos, Trent Mays can be seen sobbing and showing remorse for what happened.   One of the boys was even said to have held the victim’s hair back for her as she puked in the street from excessive drinking earlier that night. Although I’m not saying what they did was acceptable by any means, I do think that there are some murky details in this case that should be observed.  What was the intent of the boys’ actions?  After all, the girl had supposedly been fine with digital penetration earlier.  Did they think she was accepting it again?  Was the girl actually unconscious, or just extremely drunk to the point of immobility?  I’m not the one to give rape a definition, but I think it is important that news providers clearly define what happened in the case so that the public can come to their own conclusions.  It is my belief that Ma’lik and Trent should be punished for their actions.  No one should take advantage of another person when that person isn’t in their right mind.  However, I personally see a difference between two immature high school students who made a big mistake and a sexual predator who violently rapes women for his own enjoyment.  Although what they did is wrong, I’m not sure they should simply be tossed into the category of rapist.  What happened in Steubenville is unfortunate on all sides of the case.  The victim, assailants, and entire town have had to suffer from the stupidity of two young men.

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In regards to research, I’m still sifting through yahoo news articles.  Almost all of the sources I’ve found are similar.  Many of the newer articles written about Steubenville don’t seem to have any frame within them.  I think this is because a lot of the passion has died down since the incident occurred.  Also, after seeing how major news stations came under fire for being too obvious in their framing, maybe others are afraid to share their opinions on the subject so openly.  It will be interesting to see how our class will be able to code the information we’ve gathered so far. 

Here are some examples of what i’ve been finding

http://gma.yahoo.com/steubenville-rape-case-grand-jury-indicts-schools-technology-204955582–abc-news-topstories.html

http://www.pjstar.com/free/x1155172926/Shutdown-spawns-vacuum-in-farm-market-information

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130903/OPINION03/309030026/1969/NEWS

http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/589921.html

Steubenville Rape Case: Research and Discovery

By Tonya B. Lewis

As part of my Theory of Mass Communication’s class team paper on the Steubenville rape case, we are conducting a content analysis and reviewing print and online articles and broadcast transcripts (if we can find them). In the process of preparing a codebook (see my blog post, Abstracts, Lit. Reviews and Methods…Oh, My!), we have begun to read a sample of articles. This preliminary research has led to some discoveries of my personal, internal conflict with the case.

Conflict (Discovery)
The idea of rape is repulsive. But, what happens when the word “rape” is not used? Does “molestation” incite the same feelings of disgust? Does that euphemism take the sting out of the act? Should there be a clear distinction between rape and molestation? All of these questions have been posed in my mind while reading the accounts of the Steubenville rape case.

Mays and Richmond

Trent Mays (left) and Ma’lik Richmond (right) at their rape trial.

The victim in the case was digitally penetration (I admit I had to look that up to understand it.) by the perpetrators, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond. But, there was no sexual intercourse. When I read these accounts, the word I first thought of was “molestation” and not rape. Was my ignorance due to what I was taught or read over the years in media reports of sex crimes? Or, has the definition simply changed and evolved over the years?In a 2005 journal article, researchers Paul Mason and Jane Monckton-Smith write that the public perception of “real rape” is that it “is perpetrated by a stranger and involves aggravating violence.” I think that attitude is changing.

Footage from the night of the Steubenville rape that was shared on social media that ultimately alerted the victim of the assault that occurred. These images and video where later used by police as evidence.

Footage from the night of the Steubenville rape that was shared on social media that ultimately alerted the victim of the assault that occurred. These images and video where later used by police as evidence.

In Ohio, there is no ambiguity in what constitutes rape. Digital penetration is rape. According to media reports and social media posts, the perpetrators, and many of the other teenagers present during the assault definitely knew it was rape. A YouTube video (ABC News story) showed students laughing saying that the victim was “so raped.” Bottomline: Whether it’s rape or molestation, it’s wrong.

Coding (Research)
Reading these articles trying to detect the use of frames is proving to be a little more difficult than I initially anticipated. A judgement call between facts/statements vs. opinions must be for each article and correlated with other’s assessments of the article (i.e., coding). We still have work to do, but I think that refining our codebook along with our professor’s, Dr. Moody, review of the few articles we have coded, will help us refine our technique.

Additionally, our research team knows there are numerous, if not, hundreds, of articles on the Steubenville rape case but many seem to be lacking from databases. We have to create a formal way for others to find those article in the event that someone wants to replicate the study. In essence, this means there is potentially a great deal of articles that we will not be able to review, code and ultimately, include in our study. It is my hypothesis that framing is prevalent in coverage of the rape, and I am concerned that the articles, or lack thereof, will not exhibit or demonstrate the existence of frames. Or, that the dearth of articles will present inaccurate, incomplete or inadequate findings. I know every research study has limitations, and I don’t want this to be a major one for our research.

A part of me hopes that there are not many frames present in media coverage for the victim or the perpetrators. This would mean that journalists have gotten better at covering rape stories and eliminating some of the bias from their stories that maybe the journalism tenet of objectivity is not only real, but being adhered to. That may sound very idyllic, but keep in mind that I view every glass more than half full, wish unicorns were real and have been known to wish upon a star…

Aside

Thoughts on Team Paper

By Malory Green

The team paper on the Steubenville rape case has been the cause of a good deal of controversy in our classroom and in my own mind. The questions we’ve been dealing with range from the actions of the girl, to the actions of the media, to whether or not it should even be termed rape. The question of rape vs. molestation has perhaps been the biggest source of questioning and I’ll paraphrase how Tonya put it so well in an effort to communicate my feelings on the matter.

Essentially, Tonya’s view is that these boys have a better understanding of rape than I did at their age, perhaps even as I do now. They called it rape on all sorts of social media and therefore had full and conscious knowledge of what they were doing.

Another idea that comes into my mind, particularly as I read the blogs that have been written on the matter, is whether or not the media did more harm than good in this situation. As someone who wants to one day join the ranks of mass media, to be a watchdog for the wrong and celebrate the right in the world, what is my role? Where do I need to stand on issues like this? NBC and CNN seemed to be making an attempt (albeit misguided) at unbiased journalism but the public was outraged. Where is the line between things that are absolutely wrongs against humanity and things that have more than one side?

steubenville steubenville 2

The above pictures represent the different ideas people have. Granted, the one on the left is not victim blaming but it represents the idea that these boys are all around good boys. They’re dressed well, they look remorseful. The look like young boys who are simply terrified about what’s going to happen in their lives. It plays to everyone’s (including my) sympathy. The other picture represents the outrage surrounding such shots.

What makes this paradox so disturbing is the fact that it doesn’t only represent the media’s point of view. Everyone is baffled by this case as our sympathies are torn by the fact that we believe something was taken from that girl (whether you believe it’s rape or not, her dignity was certainly taken) but at the same time, compassion surfaces for the fact that those boys’ lives are ruined.

What they did was wrong. That’s it. Wrong. They should be punished, and I am so happy they are receiving sentences for their crime. So, while part of me is outraged at the act they committed for the sake of that girl and the principle of human kindness but a small part of me also wonders how much of that the boys realized they were doing, particularly in their inebriated state. It’s not an excuse for them, it’s not a request for a lighter sentence-it is simply a sadness all around for the situation.

As far as our research goes, I’ve found a good many blog articles on the topic. Over half seem to be regular bloggers whose opinions on legal matters are well respected, while about 30% are professionals. The theme and tone of these blogs tends to be outrage-outrage at the boys, outrage at the adults who should have been there, outrage at the adults who covered it up, outrage at the media for how they handled it. In my case, its outrage and heartbreak at the situation as a whole.

It’s baffling that the broadcast outlets don’t have anything regarding the case on their sites, it makes one wonder what they’re attempting to hide. The only thing I was able to uncover with broadcast was the fact that Serena Williams made a good many people angry. Of course, then there’s Maria Sharapova who had to chime in on the issue.

serena

I’m sure I should have talked more about the actual research involved, but this case isn’t statistics. It isn’t hard data that I can just analyze and project my theories on to. It’s a human being, it’s three human beings. My research is going well, the blogs posted on the subject range in relevance but are so numerous that it hardly matters. The only difficulty in the project for me at this moment (other than the difficulty finding broadcast media outlets) is reconciling the case itself. That’s what I’m struggling with, and I know we’re all equally disturbed.

Struggle well, friends.