HOW DID SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCE THE STEUBENVILLE RAPE CASE? - Several stories have been written here on meebal.com discussing the desensitizing effect of TV and the Internet and how it has created empathy among our young people and fed their greed for internet fame. This rape case out of Steubenville, Ohio is yet one more example.
What is not heard on this video is the fact that these young men were not alone as they committed these offences there were at least three other young men present, she was stripped, they urinated on her, and someone took her belongings as souvenirs-including her underwear. All this was happening at a party with other teens around watching with at least 17 of them having received photos, a video and an exchange of over 10,000 texts both during and after the rape, including one saying “that all females are worthy of sexual degradation.”
Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond
Just as disturbing is the fact that while they were all busy texting and receiving texts, no one called 9-1-1.
Why did this happen?
It is called the by-stander effect. A psychological phenomenon in which individuals in a crowd do not step forward to save a victim. Unfortunately, this is what has grown out of the age of technology that surrounds our young people. They have become bystanders in their own lives and the lives of others.
How did this happen?
Society as a whole has changed and this “trickle down” effect is the result. With many single parent households and others with both parents working, many children are left to watch TV unmonitored or to spend their time in their room alone with either the computer or video games in their own private world.
Teenagers have been saturated with questionable often violent video games, watched countless hours of reality TV and graphic movies, laughed at thousands of YouTube videos filled with bizarre and risky behavior and connected with unseen “friends” on Facebook. Their own lives have lost all sense of reality and they have forgotten how to connect with one another.
Today’s technology has caused a disconnect to reality creating a virtual world where there is instant gratification with no real consequences. It is like they have become observers to their own lives and the lives of other people. This has caused a vacuum in their ability to connect with genuine emotion and is extinguishing their empathy, their courage and their compassion.
Can the by-stander effect be reversed?
Studies conducted by the British Psychological Society suggest that they can. The first obstacle that must be overcome is the idea that someone else will act or take charge of a situation. The smaller the group the more likely that a person is comfortable stepping up to the challenge and out of their comfort zone. Ongoing research using both live participants and internet participants are currently taking place, with the most promising results occurring in physically present groups.
There is no doubt that without the evidence found on the cell phones that this case may not have ended with a guilty verdict. Between all the eye witnesses being drunk and the victim having no clear memory of the events, the largest determining factor was the 12-minute video, photos and numerous texts.
What will not change is the fact that the Internet is part of our lives and it is here to stay. What gets posted is there forever.
This is not the end of the story:
There are still questions surrounding this case and Ohio’s Attorney General has stated that there will be further investigations and possible charges brought forward. Ohio has a state law that requires people to report a crime and yet the teens at the party who witnessed what was happening and those who received texts that night were not charged. Besides these possible charges, there should be a fine or community service performed for using cell phones to sensationalize a crime.
The three football players who were eye witnesses to at least one of the attacks were offered immunity from any charges in exchange for their testimony against both Mays and Richmond. Controversy surrounds them and other football players who are often given special treatment in a town filled with “football pride.”
Alcohol was available to underage teenagers and it was present at more than one location. One or more persons will be found and held responsible .
With Spring Break just around the corner, drinking and partying will be in excess for an entire week. My hope is that with this case being in the spotlight our young people will think more seriously about the choices they make and the effect those choices will have on their lives.