New Delhi or Steubenville: Which One Is More Third World?

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?


  1. Shavaun McGinty says:

    Agreed….And though the American victim lives, her life is forever changed because of that incident.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh how heartbreakingly right you are.

  3. Doc Shannon says:

    I think what bothers me more is how much the,media is so focused on what a “tragedy” it is that these boys will be labeled for for life as rapists. So what. they are and they bragged about it. it was a just verdict. the girl may not remember all at this time, but many times as the subconscious unravels it all it will come back and haunt her for the rest of her life, but the media doesn’t mention that or her much at all. just these poor boys that had such bright futures.

  4. You snatched the words out of my mouth. Very true and apt post

  5. Christine, not only did you eloquently present a solid argument, you are spot on. I agree with everything you said. Thank you.

  6. 5 comments and 4 definitely from women plus 6 comments on Facebook –all from women. Ladies/friends thank you so much for your comments and support. My husband read this post before I published it and for the first time ever he said “It’s perfect—dead on–don’t change a thing.” Coming from my harshest critic AND biggest fan, that meant a lot. However, I am curious about what other men think?

  7. Christine, until I read your piece, I had not read any published reports that gave the impression of blaming the girls in question. I did see one obscure blog which claimed the fellas in Ohio should not have been convicted, but it was so clearly the ravings of a lunatic, I dismissed it. Nothing I have seen in print or on news coverage expressed anything but disdain for these teens who, as you say, have been given the sentence they deserve.
    “Steubenville vs New Delhi” is a tough comparison, but perhaps not a useful one. In either case, the victim was assaulted without cause, and bystanders did nothing to stop it. In both cases, all responsible reporting has expressed disdain for the offenders. The sole difference – as far as I can see – is that in Ohio, the offenders were seen to express regret, while that has not been reported in India (though it may have happened, we don’t know). Is this the civilized behaviour you are contrasting?

    • Doc Shannon says:

      Chemjim, I guess we watch different “news” programs. the media I have seen has focused on how sad it is that these boys with such bright futures have to go to jail and be labeled sex offenders for life not on the tragedy that is rape in our society. the boys regret seems mire that they were caught and have to pay the price than remorse over what they did to, in their words, ” the slut”.

    • chemjim, thanks for posting. There is a website (name escapes me now) that has set up a page listing (anonymously) tweet by tweet scores of people who hold this particular victim responsible for the crime against her. Further, today there are reports of death threats made against her by her classmates. Do you think these girls are threatening this victim for kicks? No, they blame her for what has happened to their boys, their school, their town, their_____________. It doesn’t matter. Regarding “nothing but disdain,” I will respectfully disagree. Since when do we take the words uttered by a television reporter to be the whole truth? These words must be taken in context. In both CNN and ABCnews coverages the not so subtle references to the perpetrators being “good students,” and having “great potential” are absolutely NOT in line with portraying disdain. My point in contrasting these two stories was to get people here (in America) thinking about what we perceive to be problems that are worse elsewhere. I am not sure that anyone reporting on any truly horrible story can be entirely unbiased/responsible but some are worse than others (for example, is Fox News really “fair and balanced?”) When a reporter openly wept while covering the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, she was clearly biased. However, this bias was as justified as a bias can be. I don’t expect our media to be robotic and without feeling. It’s just that in any story in which a young girl is assaulted, humiliated publicly, and then portrayed as a “slut,” any bias towards the perpetrators, no matter how veiled, is sickening. But, that is just my opinion.

  8. chemjim, you should google the live coverage of the verdict presented by cnn. It was shocking.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree. However, sadly I don’t think we are going to see things change until men are the ones writing these posts. When men get involved, when they stand up, when fathers teach sons, when men demand a stop to this kind of violence, then things will begin to change.

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