Why Don’t You Have A Seat Over Here
I’ve been following the Steubenville rape case in the news for weeks now, and we now have a guilty verdict that will send two boys to a juvenile correction facility where they could possibly remain incarcerated until they are 21. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond have received sentences of a minimum of two years and one year respectfully, but must also register as sex offenders for the rape; the act of penetration to the victim with their hands constitutes rape under Ohio law. The event was fueled by drugs and alcohol and teenagers behaving like teenagers; living in the moment, having fun, and not giving a thought to the consequences of their actions.
What the two boys did was horrible. What the teenagers who witnessed the event did by covering things up is equally as bad, as is the actions of a few on social media sites by threatening the victim with bodily harm. It’s an all around terrible situation. No one deserves to be violated in this way and to be shamed by their community. No one deserves the trauma and the backlash or to be told that it’s their fault that they were sexually assaulted. The victim did make a poor choice in becoming so inebriated that she had no control over her actions and couldn’t even manage to stay conscious, but that doesn’t mean she deserved what happened to her and what continues to happen as people angry over the sentencing place the blame on her shoulders.
Mays and Richmond definitely deserve to serve time for what they did to this female. They chose to treat her like a piece of trash, to laugh as they violated her, and to act like it was all a joke. That said, the pair are still only children. They screwed up and no doubt, this ordeal and all the time in court and in the spotlight has hit them both hard and taught them a serious lesson. The time in the juvenile facility will help to strongly drive home that what they did was all kinds of wrong. But do they really deserve to become sex offenders? Do these teenager boys deserve to have to register as offenders and have that thrown on top of what is already a very heavy load of grief, regret, shame and anguish?
I’m not saying I sympathize with rapists because that is simply ridiculous. But I do sympathize with two young lives who are going to be ruined even further if they must register as sex offenders. Mays and Richmond are already paying for their crime dearly with all the negative attention that is coming their way, the effect this has had on their families and community, and the time they must serve in the juvenile facility. Their mistake is likely not one that these boys will ever repeat in their lives. In addition to registering as sex offenders, they are ordered to undergo treatment, which I feel is absolutely necessary and will further assist the two in fully understanding what they did, why it was wrong, and why it should never happen again. The punishment and rehabilitation are enough without putting the sex offender registry on top of it.
I understand why this is a sexual offense, but I don’t know if their mistake and poor choices justify carrying the extra stigma of being a registered sex offender. This is something that will affect where they can live and who they can live with. It will affect where they can work and the ease of getting employment. It will affect their livelihood well after they have served their time and undergone their rehabilitation, well after we have all forgotten about their crime, and well after their victim is recovered and has moved on. I can’t help but be very bothered by the fact that these two boys are going to have their entire lives ruined over one dumb night of partying.
Mays and Richmond are both minors, 17 and 16 respectfully, and still very obviously not thinking as a rational adult would. I’m not suggesting that their age and lack of maturity is enough to excuse their poor actions, but I do believe it is enough to save them from becoming registered sex offenders. Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, is planning to appeal this decision in order to save his client from becoming a registered offender and I do hope that he is successful. Having the boys register will not teach them or save them from repeating this act again later in life. They need to be punished, they need to learn, and they must make amends. Perhaps they also need to spend time doing volunteer work with battered and abused women in order to imprint it into their brains. They simply need to be saved.
When we are dealing with people as young as Mays and Richmond, the goal should be on rehabilitation and on saving these two lives, not simply on piling punishment on top of punishment. Force the two to apologize directly to their victim and to their community. Ensure they understand the severity of their crime and make them learn proper boundaries. Make them see the damage they have done and make them understand how rape affects a person. Show them what will happen if they continue along a path of wrongdoing by putting them face to face with people who have made the same or worse mistakes. Ensure they serve enough time in the juvenile facility to where they have no desire to ever break a law again. But don’t lump them in with pedophiles, serial rapists, and other adults who simply can’t or won’t learn their lesson. Give them a chance.