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Teens, learn from the Ohio teen rape case

Mar 21, 2013 - By The Philadelphia Inquirer

The story of an Ohio teenager who passed out drunk at a party and was sexually assaulted by two high school football players has captivated America because much of it is familiar. In urban, suburban and rural settings, the combination of teenage hormones and alcohol, often accompanied by other drugs, too often leads to unwanted sex. That's rape.

In many cases, a victim with no recollection or evidence of what occurred remains silent -- all the while enduring mostly whispered remarks, including the bragging of her assailants, about an incident she cannot remember.

Such violations have happened for years, but in this digital age, the bragging can be more immediate, and it can include photographs and videos, all disseminated via text messages and social media.

That's shameful, but, ironically, the Internet and cellphone communication have the benefit of creating evidence that prosecutors can use. So it was with the Steubenville, Ohio, case, which ended Sunday with the rape convictions of the two juveniles.

The 17-year-old star quarterback for the Steubenville High Big Red was sentenced to at least a year in detention for rape and another year for distributing nude photos of a minor. A 16-year-old wide receiver received a year for rape. Both could be ordered jailed until the age of 21 if they violate the terms of their probation.

The crime occurred on Aug. 12, during a wild night of parties in which the players repeatedly took advantage of a teen from nearby Weirton, W.Va., who was so inebriated that they called her "the dead girl" in text messages. Others chronicled the evening in texts, photos, and videos.

The 16-year-old girl recalls only waking up naked the next day in a basement room of a strange house with Mays, Richmond, and another boy. Mays told her he had taken care of her, but she later saw the photos and video. "It's on YouTube," she told Mays in a text. "I'm not stupid."

Prosecutors said they reviewed 396,270 text messages, 308,586 photos, and 940 video clips. The case divided Steubenville into those who sympathized with the victim, and those who supported two boys who were part of one of the proudest institutions left in the down-on-its-luck former steel town -- a high school football team that has won nine state championships.

This cautionary tale of young athletes on too high a pedestal may not be over. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine plans to convene a grand jury to determine whether to prosecute others who knew about the crime but didn't report it. That may include the boys' coach.

Some teenagers said they didn't realize they were watching a rape because it didn't seem violent. Their comments suggest a critical lesson young people need to be taught before they find themselves in a situation where someone unable to speak for herself is treated so horribly.

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