Letter to CNN’s rape apologists

21 Mar

Dear Ms Crowley and Ms Harlow,

After a few days away from the Anglophone media, I was this morning alerted to your news report, date 17th March, on the trial of the Steubenville rapists: the high school boys who kidnapped a 16 year old girl who was vomiting at the roadside and fell unconscious, then drove her – over a period of several hours – from party to party where they repeatedly gang raped and urinated on her. They and their delighted, laughing pals filmed the attacks whilst shouting comments such as “she is so raped,” “they raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!”, “they raped her more than the Duke lacrosse team!”; and she was “deader than Trayvon Martin” and then shared videos and photographs via social media, which, incidentally, went viral. Laurie Penny has compared these images to the photographs taken between the 1880’s and 1930’s, which show white Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done, just as those Steubenville boys did. And you reinforce their sense of justification.

As you are no doubt aware, when the girl (commonly known in the media as Jane Doe) and her family reported the crime to the police, she began to receive death threats as inhabitants of the town of Steubenville, Ohio, united in an attempted mass cover up of the rapes, in order to protect the implicated young boys, who happened to be the town’s star football players.

You could say that Jane Doe has been raped many times: firstly by the boys that invaded her unconscious body; secondly by the party-goers who watched and did nothing; thirdly by the people that delighted in sharing and mocking pictures of her ordeal via social media; and now by the great masses of rape apologists who rally behind her rapists rather than her (you may count yourselves in this final category).

Pardon the digression. Back to your news report. To jog your memories, here is a link to your report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cvUCDjLDIk. I have also enclosed a transcript of your dialogue in case your internet connection is too slow for you to watch the video comfortably (see below).

In your report, the two of you, plus your “expert”, Paul Callan, express incredible levels of sadness, sympathy and regret for those poor rapists who will spend over a year in a detention centre for their crimes. You feel, I quote, “incredibly emotional” at the sight of these boys crying in court as “their lives fell apart”. Indeed, Ms Harlow, in terms of the compassion you feel for the two boys, you say that you’ve “never experienced anything like it.” All three of you lament that these boys will now be labeled as sex offenders for their whole lives, despite being “good students.”

It’s so very sad when rapists get caught, especially when they are good students. I feel your pain… I really do (I don’t) … and so I have developed a few tips to help you help other defenceless young boys in potential danger of having their lives ruined with custodial sentences and appearances on the sex offenders register:

1) Don’t commit a sex offence*

I can’t think of any more tips.

Yours sincerely,

Joanna Allan

* Kidnapping someone, repeatedly raping them, urinating on them and filming it constitutes a sex offence.

P.S. Will CNN be televising a public apology for this appalling piece of journalism?

P.P.S Your report on this trial breaks my heart. I have never been more amazed and disgusted by anything I have read or heard from a journalist.


CROWLEY: “Again, this case was played out in juvenile court, that is why there was a judge, no jury. He decided on the verdict, as well as, you heard there, talking about the sentence.

We want to go now to CNN’s Poppy Harlow. She is in Steubenville, and has been covering this trial.

I cannot imagine having just watched this on the feed coming in. How emotional that must have been sitting in the courtroom.”

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: “I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional — incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.

One of — one of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.”

Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16- year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.

But Trent Mays was also found guilty on a second count and that is of felony illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material because he took a photograph of the victim laying naked on the floor that night. Trent Mays will serve two years in a juvenile detention facility. Ma’lik Richmond will serve one year on that one count that he was found guilty for.

I want to let our viewers listen because for the first time in this entire trial we have now heard from the two young men. Trent Mays stood up, apologizing to the victim’s family in court. After him, Ma’lik Richmond.”



TRENT MAYS, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPING IN JUVENILE COURT: “I would really like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, my family and community. No pictures should have been sent out or should be taken. That’s all. Thank you.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Anything you’d like to say, Ma’lik?”

MA’LIK RICHMOND, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPE IN JUVENILE COURT:” I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything like that and I’m sorry to put you guys through this. (INAUDIBLE) I’m sorry.”


HARLOW:” I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement. It was very difficult to watch.

You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, gotten to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.

And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.

And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.

This was an incredibly emotional day. These two juveniles being carried out and they will be committed today, Candy.”

I want to bring in Paul Callan, our CNN legal contributor.

You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim.

The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they’re 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Candy, we’ve seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy and, you know, Poppy’s description, I think, you know, sums it all up. But across America scenes like this happen all the time.

I know as a prosecutor and defense attorney, when that verdict is handed down, usually it’s just the family and families of the defendants and the victims, there’s always that moment of just lives are destroyed. And lives have already been destroyed by the crime. And we got a chance to see that.

But in terms of what happens now, yes, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law and, by the way, the laws in most other states now require such a designation in the face of such a serious crime.

That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see they’re registered sex offender. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet where these things are posted. Neighbors will know they’re a registered sex offender.

It’s really something that will have a lasting impact. Much more of a lasting impact than going to a juvenile facility for one or two years.


17 Responses to “Letter to CNN’s rape apologists”

  1. HannahDavis March 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    This is not the first I’ve read about this. I saw this on facebook this morning: http://rantagainsttherandom.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/so-youre-tired-of-hearing-about-rape-culture/
    The whole thing just blows my mind and makes me sick.

  2. Ian March 22, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Shocked, appalled sickened, what about the real victim? Her life/ future, hopes and aspirations?? As with all rapists the law remains too lenient. At least they were named. In UK they would not due to their age. This is perhaps yet another indication of a current shift towards women being seen as objects, inferior etc etc. particularly within the younger generation due to sexualised youth pop culture, media / internet porn etc.
    Heaven help us. I truly despair.

    • NaturalWoman March 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      I agree. What other explanation for such a report than believing that women.don’t. matter.

      • Ian March 23, 2013 at 7:23 am #

        Further to my last comment – Esquire editor giving an account of the way men’s magazines work, as part of a panel about feminism in the media at the recent Advertising Week Europe conference said ‘ The women we feature are ornamental, that is how we see them. I could lie and say we are interested in their brains as well but on the whole we’re not, they are there to be a beautiful object, they’re objectified.’
        Just about sums it up really!

      • NaturalWoman March 23, 2013 at 9:01 am #

        True! At least he was honest and didn’t try to say that plastering sexualised images of women everywhere to sell things is some warped way of “empowering” them (many people seem to argue this)!

  3. Liz Terry March 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    This is horrific. Thank you for writing about it. Absolutely no mention of the victim at any point, and from female journalists as well as male. Unbelievable.

    • NaturalWoman March 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      It is unbelievable isn’t it. Rape Culture.

  4. goose grass March 23, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Reblogged this on Häkelmonster and commented:
    Thank you Hannah Davis (http://notyouraveragecrochet.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/a-different-kind-of-post-rape-culture/) and NaturalWoman for bringing this up. I could not agree more with both of you: the whole case – rape as well as public participation – is ATROCIOUS and therefore needs to be publicly condemned. Worldwide!

    • NaturalWoman May 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      Thanks Goose Grass for reblogging and commenting. Bring on the condemnation! Anger, Analysis, Action!

  5. Jill London May 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    I think the comment about this being akin to those vile lynching photos is apt here. It makes me despair sometimes but I often say that, truly, we are still living in the dark ages in many respects.

    • weareunfinished May 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      Thank you for writing this. I felt my commitment to feminism increase several notches as I took in the words of your article. It is saddening and sickening to read about such entrenched complicity with rapists. I believe rapists should be offered treatment in prison to understand the full impact of their actions – but they should never be defended in this way by a major broadcaster. Your piece helps redress their reporting – not only for Jane’s sake, but also for all women.


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