Revisiting the Steubenville rape case

By Louisa Ackermann

A few weeks ago we wrote about the Steubenville rape case, which will go to trial tomorrow. I am a big fan of the ole ‘innocent-until-proven-guilty’ mantra, despite the video evidence that went viral of a friend of the (alleged) perpetrators calling the (alleged) victim ‘so dead’ and ‘so raped’, giving a graphic account of what they had (allegedly) done to her whilst she was (allegedly) unconscious.

The lawyers of the self-titled ‘Rape Crew’, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond plan to assert that the whole ordeal was an elaborate plot of the girl in question to ‘excessively drink… and leave with the boys. They assert that she consented to sex.’ 

This is despite the fact that the day after the party, photos of the girl were circulated amongst her classmates being carried by her arms and feet, too drunk to stand up on her own. Despite the fact that she had vomited several times throughout the night, despite the fact that Michael Nodianos laughed to his friends on the now infamous video about the fact that she was unconscious, and that she was, in fact, raped.


Attorney Walter Madison, who will be representing members of the Rape Crew states plainly that the sixteen year old girl at no point ‘affirmatively said no.

Because. She. Was. Unconscious.

She didn’t say ‘no’ (or indeed ‘yes’) because she couldn’t speak. Because she didn’t know it was happening to her whilst it was happening. It is not unusual for reports of rapes and sexual assaults to go hand in hand with intoxication, and indeed rape cases in general are often very difficult to prosecute, in part because of a tendency to blame victims for their attacks, as Madison appears to be doing with this case.

The defense attorney seems to have made some kind of massive leap somewhere, in which in consenting to drinking and partying with these boys, she also consented to their doing whatever they wanted to do with her body. While this leap is made all too commonly, I have literally no idea what one has to do with the other. She went to a party. She drank alcohol. That is what she consented to. Ohio law explicitly states that a person cannot legally give consent if they are voluntarily or involuntarily under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so theoretically this ‘defense’ shouldn’t hold up at all, which would mean the boys would be placed on a sex offenders register and held in juvenile custody until they are at least 21.

I sincerely hope that the victim in question gets justice, and that as the case gains more traction throughout the media, the message spreads that silence cannot be construed as consent.

One thought on “Revisiting the Steubenville rape case

  1. Medics have long been unable to presume consent whilst operating on an anaesthetised patient; if procedures beyond accepted are found, the patient must be resuscitated & further consent gained; there has to be something in law forbidding action without consent in other circumstances
    Doesn’t there?

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