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Steubenville: Whatever Happened to Human Dignity?

Steubenville: Whatever Happened to Human Dignity?


Mar 20 2013
A discussion of rape, responsibility, and redemption.

"My life is over. No one is going to want me now." These are tragic words spoken by a key figure in the Steubenville rape trial. But no, they weren't spoken by the young victim, but rather one of the rapists.

A case like this calls into question so many issues surrounding rape culture, youth culture, sports culture, absentee parents, and the justice system. The ways to tell a story like this are countless. As The New Yorker points out, the tale that a young rapist's life is over because his victim dared to tell the truth is just that: a tale. This story is about far more than the "ruined" futures of the rapists. It's about the onlookers who did nothing, the youth culture in which these sorts of things happen far more often than anyone wants to know, and about what happens next for everyone--most of all the victim. As many have said, unlike that meted to the rapists, hers is a life sentence.

It's hard to pick just one aspect of the troubling Steubenville rape to address. So at Her.meneutics, we're coming together to bring up several.

- Karen Swallow Prior

The big question looms: What does redemption look like in a situation like this? Justice for the victim is a start. When rapists are justly punished, our culture collectively affirms that rape is never permissible in any circumstance. Just punishment also affirms the value of the violated, names the evil committed against her, and stands with her in solidarity. And hopefully, just punishment will further stigmatize an action that does not belong in our society or our world.

Redemption also means learning from this crime. It means that our work is far from done. Clearly, men in our country still believe it is okay, or even fun, to see women as objects and violate them accordingly. Redemption means that we continue to resist the objectification of women with all our might.

But what about the rapists? What does redemption look like for them? Much has been made of the media's seeming sympathy with these men. On the one hand, sympathy for rapists and murderers is inappropriate at best. Grieving their "ruined lives" adds injury to the victim. On the other hand, this inappropriate sympathy does not negate the Christian call to love even the most unlovable. We are to yearn for redemption and renewal for all—not just the privileged or those who "really had potential." No one, not even these Steubenville teens, is beyond the grace of God.

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Steubenville: Whatever Happened to Human Dignity?