Over the break, a scandal rocked a small city that some Ohio University students call home.
Last August, a sexual assault allegedly occurred in Steubenville, Ohio, involving a 16-year-old girl, who was under the influence of “date rape” drugs, and several high school football players.
The incident has recently been spread around social media and has drawn the attention of OU students, prompting OU officials to remind students of ways to remain safe.
Pictures of several different alleged assaults against the girl in Steubenville, which happened at multiple parties, quickly popped up on social-networking sites and in tweets from the alleged assaulters, who called themselves the “rape crew.” One student posted a grainy cell phone video, calling the girl “deader” than many famous murder victims.
Two suspects, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, are facing charges for rape and kidnapping. One suspect who was not charged, Michael Nodianos, also withdrew from Ohio State University, according to OSU’s official Twitter page.
Last month, hacker group Anonymous brought the case into the national spotlight by posting police records on its site. The case has also drawn attention due to rumors that police tried to cover up the incident to protect the football players. The trials are set to begin Feb. 13.
“I think that the case is going to continue to gain popularity until the boys’ trials and until people see what is going to happen to them,” said Jessica Lipscomb, a sophomore studying music education from St. Clairsville, Ohio, a town 30 miles from Steubenville. “The school has already beefed up security, and it seems to be getting big.”
The case has also sparked controversy because of some Internet posts that have blamed the victim for the assaults, which Susanne Dietzel, director of the Women’s Center, said is a common phenomenon.
“This idea that sexual assault survivors were in the wrong place at the wrong time is part of this idea of victim blaming,” she said. “It’s shocking to hear that this is truly how some people view sexual assault, but I’m glad that these opinions are finally coming to light.”
While this singular case has been splashed across front pages and the Internet, acquaintance rape — sexual assaults committed by someone the victim knows — account for two-thirds of all sexual assaults, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
These kinds of sexual assaults can be prevented by bystander intervention, said Victoria Calderon, former women’s affairs commissioner for Student Senate.
“A lot of times, people are timid to come forward and help when they see these types of sexual assaults happen, but if just one person stepped up, it could eliminate a lot of problems,” she said.
Though Steubenville is more than 100 miles away from OU, Lipscomb said that she is taking steps to prevent sexual assault while in Athens.
“I never walk alone at night, and I only go to small parties at good friends’ houses,” she said. “This just shows anything can happen.”