A few months ago my heart broke as I learned that the victim of the bus rape in Delhi had died. Like many Americans I was outraged. We used words like despicable, abhorrent, and uncivilized. I read a post that lamented “animals would behave better.”
Fast forward to this week. Two teens are found guilty of raping a 16 year old girl, taking photos and video of the act, and sharing them publicly. SIXTEEN. This girl may not even be old enough to drive and yet we (civilized and all) are subtly (and not so subtly) blaming her for being so drunk she did not recall the incident. A picture is painted of her: out of control, rolling on the ground, and drunk to near unconsciousness. The only words left unsaid are “she deserved it.”
I am so sick of victims being blamed for sexual violence. She should not have been drinking. She should not have been at such a party. She should not have dressed this way or that. She should not have been a liar. She should not have created this reputation.
Perhaps some or all of these things are true but how in the world does this make any of the deeds of these boys forgivable?
The Steubenville football players have no doubt ridden on a team bus hooting and hollering and high five-ing. Are they so different than those workers on the public bus in India?
Many tout that “these young men had their whole lives ahead of them.” Are we saying that since the men on that Delhi bus were quite possibly doomed to a life of poverty and despair their act was any more reprehensible?
Today, when the verdicts were read, one of the young men broke down and sobbed. He could barely get the words out. We are told this by several media outlets. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? We don’t really know how remorseful the gang rapists in New Delhi were. First, we instinctively “know” they were not. We know this because that was “there” and this is America.
You see, deep down, we want to forgive these boys with their clean shaven faces and well fitting suits. We want to believe that our good wholesome American sons just make terrible decisions and then they are so so sorry. We don’t want to see their lives ruined. They are nothing like the sweaty, dirty, unwashed men of New Delhi. We want to forget the images of the girl being dragged up the stairs naked. We want to forget the breather one young man took from the attack in order to send a descriptive text in the moment. Why do we want and need to forget these things?
Because Americans are better than this heinous act. Because we prefer to look across the ocean and down our noses and blame the God -forsaken country with its hunger and poverty and despair.
Haven’t we, in this great land, with our emphatic adoration of athletics and athletes, our tacit culture of victim blame/shame, and our prolific instant messaging, Face-booking and Tweeting created our own God-forsaken country?
I believe that the Steubenville boys deserve the punishment they were dealt and then some. Yes, the violent acts against this girl were abhorrent. But, perhaps just as punishable was their shameless celebration, documentation, and proliferation of those acts.
In the end, two victims: one life cut short and one life shattered–both at the hands of violent, despicable men. One girl, in death, does not have to relive the horror. One girl, by her “drunkenness,” has no memory of the attack. Who is more “fortunate?” And shouldn’t we even be ashamed to ask such a question?
In the end, two crime scenes: one a dirty bus in an impoverished city the other a hedonistic basement in a celebrated American football town. Which one is more uncivilized?
Consider the widening net being cast by the prosecutors in the Steubenville case–now to include many adults, teachers, and school officials who turned a blind eye even as the undeniable photos and texts were showered before their very eyes. Now, consider the “unbelievable corruption” of law enforcement officials and the slothfulness of the other passengers on that New Delhi bus who could not or would not do anything to help as that girl was raped and beaten to death.
Come to think of it, we Americans are really not that much more first world are we?