Steubenville has been the focus of so much animosity on Twitter, the net in general and for some has continued to spill over into their real lives. As most of the world knows by now, a 16 year old girl was raped by two boys after a series of parties on August 11, 2012. The boys were found delinquent in March after a lengthy trial. But, of course, this is not the entire story.
This case gained international outrage after a cell of Anonymous, a decentralized group of hackers and activists, took action against rumors that the case was being covered up by local law enforcement and the county prosecutor. Shortly after a lawsuit involving a blogger who wrote about her perception that the case was being “swept under the rug” and a boy who was somehow involved with the evening but not charged with any crime, Anonymous took control of the Big Red fansite on Dec 23rd. Steubenville’s Big Red football team has been the center of the controversy as many of its players were present during at least one of the parties the night of the rape. The names of these boys were posted on the defaced website along with a video that stated that if they did not come forward, a d0x would be publicized containing all their personal information including social security numbers. Also on the site was a somewhat jaw dropping allegation that the administrator of the site was involved in a rape and child pornagraphy ring. His email was hacked and a link to his files including photos of naked women was included as “evidence”.
Now I will pause here to discuss this a moment. If the files found were actual child pornography why would anyone make that available to the public? Why victimize more women while standing up for another? Anonymous claimed these files were forwarded to the FBI and later disclosed the women were over 18. I personally believe that was mistake number one. I don’t doubt the intentions of uncovering wrongdoing but the execution was reckless and unjustly caused more harm. There was no further evidence that the site’s webmaster had any involvement in the events of that evening. Many of the boys named were not present during the actual crime but were threatened and even the boys who were present were witnesses for the prosecution. This led to many more questions from those like myself and public outrage from citizens of Steubenville towards the “whistleblowers”.
I use the term “whistleblowers” loosely as that is what much of the media branded them because over the course of several weeks more and more info was released(Anonymous never released the d0x) including a 12 minute video of teens laughing and mocking the victim. I watched this video myself in sheer disbelief that anyone could talk about another in that manner. This video along with a tragic tale of horrific details such as the vcitim was drugged, urinated on, kidnapped in the trunk of a car and gang raped over and over helped “weaponize the media” as one individual put it. Anonymous partnered with a site called LocalLeaks that posted anonymously submitted information and with these details the “Stebenville Files” were created, filled with many rumors and innuendo with little or no evidence. Some things were taken from the Probable Cause Hearing in October but even those tidbits conflicted with other items posted. Despite the lack of accuracy(the disclosure didn’t even provide the correct arrest date) the Main Stream Media began repeating and repeating and linking and relinking to the “Steubenville Files” so much so that the Steubenville’s police department began a counter site “Stebenville Facts”. This, of course, only led the conspiracy theory to escalate with many believing the police were trying to, again, cover up the truth by putting out more false information.
What was an easily verifiable fact was the two boys were arrested on Aug 22nd, charged as adults with rape and kidnapping. This only occurred because the victim’s family reported to police on Aug 14th and turned over photos, tweets and the 12 minute video, the very evidence the “whistleblowers” claim they uncovered. Now it is my understanding that investigators are not subject to revealing evidence to an unhappy blogger or a group of unnamed activists. Many of the rumors were debunked by the Probable Cause Hearing’s transcript if anyone bothered to read it. One person did. Lee Stranahan, a writer for Brietbart News, took the media to task by blogging excerpts from the transcript in a blog titled “Steubenville Rape Case: Everything You Know is Wrong“, pointing out the flaws in LocalLeaks disclosure. He also questioned many journalists who seemed to be not only reinforcing the rumors but even adding their own.
I discussed this case several times with Lee in January and as soon as I approached him I was bombarded with rumors about Lee himself. That he was a “rape fetish pornographer”, he has an “anti-Anonymous agenda” that he was defending the boys and discrediting the victim. As an objective reader, I didn’t see any of this. I knew of Lee from the film “Occupy Unmasked” and he wasn’t exactly well liked by members of Anonymous but I found his reporting to be more on the mark than all the rumor mongering. The personal attacks were just another aspect that I found appalling from Anonymous and Lee’s critics. Looking back Mr Stranahan was the only journalist who attempted to reach the truth. The most interesting thing to me was how many felt it was unusual for a right wing blogger to attempt to correct the left wing media. Several campaigns were made against Lee trying to discredit his reporting such as he was paid by the defense or was paid by the town simply because he was fundraising to go cover the story. I also saw no sign of any validity in these rumors and Lee himself had his benefactor on his radio show to clear up any confusion.
LocalLeaks, however, never attempted to correct or clear the air. The decision to partner with LocalLeaks was clearly a mistake but certainly had the effect desired. People from all over the world read it, believed it and repeated it adding to the misconceptions and giving much more credibility than it deserved. A small handful of people spoke out against it, debunking rumors and attempting to show the facts but it wasn’t until after the trial that most began to see what a complete fraud LocalLeaks was. Many who promoted the site began denouncing it and the site has since been taken down.
Even though most of the information was proven false much of it is still cemented in the minds of many and what seems like a never ending feud has been raging on Twitter since the very beginning. I have been called so many things since I started questioning the information put out but it doesn’t change the facts. Every time I responded with a screenshot or link to relevant information it has resulted in either being called a “rape apologist” or being blocked for no reason. For the record, I don’t believe there is any excuse for rape. I also don’t believe there is any reason that a rational conversation couldn’t be had.
It seems to me that most of the arguing is based on emotion rather than facts. There are several different issues that are rolled together rather than separated and discussed rationally. I feel for Jane Doe. What happened to her should never happen to anyone. I believe everyone agrees. The underage drinking and behavior that comes with it is becoming more apparent with the increase in degrading posts on social media. However, I don’t believe this is a “Steubenville” issue. This could have happened any where. At any time. By anyone. As far as the “cover-up” no proof to this date has been provided. There have been many cases over the past year that could use some added pressure. Just recently, a judge sentenced a man to 30 days in jail after he admitted to raping a 14 year old girl, the victim took her own life, the prosecution negotiated on a 3 year treatment program to drop charges and he failed to comply. That case. out of Montana, is yet another tragedy and more should be done to hold the man accountable. There are many cases in which nothing is done, justice is not served and Steubenville is not one of them. On the contrary, I felt that Steubenville acted quicker and more efficiently than many cases. I applaud Jane Doe’s family with reporting to the police and supplying the evidence they had. I applaud law enforcement and the justice system for doing what needed to be done to punish the offenders and I hope the grand jury that has convened to investigate any further criminal behavior serves justice to any who deserve it. Most of all, I believe people need to learn from this case. Communicate, debate issues to find better ways of preventing anything like this in the future.
The hashtag Steubenville(#Steubenville) or a variation of (#OpSteubenville. #OcccupySteubenville) has been used aggressively across the board to express positive things about the town or deragatory things towards its citizens. Several tweeters have gone so far as to compare other rape cases as “the next Steubenville” or something to that affect. I personally don’t agree with comparing stories of this nature as they all are different, they all are tragic and they all could be prevented. There hasn’t been much discussion regarding what led to the rape or what could be done to prevent it. Most have simply thrown Steubenville in a class of it’s own, as the rape capital of the world where everyone covers up their actions and sweeps it all under the rug. Steubenville has had it’s share of a tarnished past but to continue kicking and screaming that it is the worst place in existence is not helping to ensure a safer future. The way this Op began in December, I’m positive the preservation of innocence was the least thing from the minds of those who started it but surely should be a consideration after the way it was executed. Steubenville certainly should acknowledge what took place and look to redeem themselves by proving that safety comes first. This doesn’t happen with a few hot tempered tweets but over the course of time. The world may be watching but more and more are willing to disregard the lies, accept the truth and discuss the future. Until a discussion is had and preventative measure put in place this could and mostly likely will happen again while the feud rages on. Think about that while you’re tweeting away…