There is a photo at the top of this post that may be upsetting, and some supporters in comments are recounting experiences of sexual assault and rape. Please be advised. For a photo-less version of the letter, click here. To see the original, continue reading below. If you agree with the demands, please consider leaving a comment in support. Thank you!
This letter was sent directly to Steubenville High School, Principal Shawn Crosier, and the Steubenville High Athletics Department on January 17, 2013.
To Steubenville High School,
As concerned people who wish to reduce the prevalence of rape in our society, we stand in solidarity with the victim of the the recent Steubenville, Ohio “rape crew” case, and the local demonstrators working for justice. We strongly encourage school administrators to set a positive example by adopting the following minimum 3 steps.
If the Steubenville High public school does not take the following 3 minimum steps before February 12th, 2013, we will be forced to take further action.
1. Any member of the Steubenville High School Football team present at the time of the assault, whether as perpetrator or bystander, should be barred from playing for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. This corresponds to the Ohio High School Athletics Association’s maximum penalties for participating in a non-interscholastic football squad, which stipulate suspension for “the remainder of the interscholastic football season or the ensuing football season.” Obviously the violation in this case is much more serious; therefore, the consequences should be greater. We ask that the school suspend from play the following Big Red and/or “Rape Crew” members: Trent Mays, Malik Richmond, Cody Saltsman, Evan Westlake, Jake Howarth, Charlie Keenan, and Mark Cole. All others recognized as perpetrators and/or bystanders after the receipt of this letter will be held equally accountable.
2. Steubenville High School should fire all rape-supporting and enabling staff, starting with coach Reno Saccoccia. The words “Reno Field” should be removed from Harding Field’s astroturf. We recommend replacing them with the words “Stop Rape.” Assistant coach Pierro, who, according to LocalLeaks, consents to the football team getting “party favors,” including the date rape drug they allegedly gave the girl that night, should also be fired. Nate Hubbard, one of many volunteer coaches, should be banned from involvement with the high school football team for engaging in egregious (though unfortunately typical) victim blaming, initially asserting that the victim must have fabricated her own assault out of embarrassment at coming home to her parents intoxicated. Also culpable are assistant coaches Cameletti and Belerdine, both of whom, according to LocalLeaks, hosted two of the several parties where the alleged rape took place. Any other coach who does not outwardly oppose rape culture, or who exhibits rape-apologist and victim-blaming behavior, is unfit for their position and should be fired and/or banned from all involvement with the high school football team.
3. The school should publicly resolve to replace disqualified staff and volunteers with anti-rape coaches. Such individuals should not only be skilled in coaching football, but also equipped as anti-rape educators: consciously counteracting the rape-supportive attitudes that are widespread in our culture and statistically even more prevalent among athletes (see below). We ask that the body in charge of hiring and approving coaches for all men’s high school athletic programs only offer a position to a candidate after receiving express approval from a group focused on rape prevention. There seem to be a number of such groups in Ohio, i.e. the Ohio Department of Health’s Rape Prevention Program, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and the Men’s Action Network.
We further recommend that the public school system, and all schools, take affirmative action to provide anti-rape education, especially to athletes. Research has shown that boys and young men who participate in athletics and who join all male groups such as fraternities are more likely to hold rape-supportive attitudes and to be reported for committing rape (see the work of Scott Boeringer, 1999; Peggy Reeves Sanday, 2007; and Walter DeKeseredy, and Rana Sampson, 2003); holding rape supportive attitudes has also been shown to make college men more likely to commit rape (see the work of Gerald Burgess, 2007). Tested interventions to educate young men about rape and enlist their help in intervening in potential rapes exist; Steubenville High should partner with the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, or another similarly qualified advocacy group, to select and implement a meaningful curriculum throughout the school system.
We also suggest that the boys involved seek mental health services to address the underlying pain driving them to enact this extremely harmful behavior. We recognize that such behavior is not only a norm in our society but a product of a toxic culture that dehumanizes, hypersexualizes and blames victims, particularly women and gender-nonconforming people, for violence committed against them. In the U.S., every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted, and a study conducted by the New Havens concluded that almost a third of women and a quarter of men believed that women were to blame for rape if they were dressed provocatively. We must help heal a society that applauds, consents to and turns a blind eye to the deep disregard of women’s and queer people’s bodies.
Why Is This Any Of Our Business?
1. A Movement For Self Defense
To those who may accuse us of meddling where we don’t belong, or who may protest that the three demands will harm the livelihood of Steubenville by damaging the athletics-related economy of the town, we appreciate the spirit of your concern. Indeed, it would be hypocritical of us to intervene in this case if we were not also involved in increasing the consequences of rape and intimate violence in the places where we live. We do this work, as well, and with this action we re-commit to continuing it. At the same time, we recognize that working to increase the consequences of rape in Steubenville is an act of self-protection, regardless of where we happen to live now. Statistics show that people who commit rape are likely to victimize multiple people: an average of six. As football players enjoy greater opportunities for mobility throughout the country, moving to different cities to play on university teams, they are given easy opportunities to commit or support assault OUTSIDE of Ohio. In fact, they will do so with impunity if not confronted now and are likely to engage in non-consensual dangerous behaviors in our cities and in our bars once they leave Steubenville. Studies show that this is a common pattern for rapists. Therefore, we hope that the town of Steubenville, and the offenders themselves, will join us in taking these events seriously, acting in collective strength to shift the social consequences of rape.
2. Untangling The Knots of Impunity
Time and time again, rapists are granted impunity because they supposedly play too valuable a role to brook reducing their power in a given community. This happens everywhere: no group — liberal, conservative, secular or religious — has fully rid itself of this dysfunctional habit pattern. We do not claim purity; we have to work on ourselves, and the communities of which we are a part. It is precisely because we are so familiar with these horrible problems that we recognize them in Steubenville. We are not against sports, and we recognize that the football program is precious to many people — especially as deindustrialization continues in the US, many impacted towns like Steubenville have poured heart, soul, and treasure into athletic programs. But what happens if the football program becomes so central to the psychology or economy of a town that the town itself becomes incapable of standing up for justice and for its own safety? It is akin, perhaps, to mining, fracking, or oil-refinery towns that become dependent on industries hazardous to the well-being of their own inhabitants. For this we blame our capitalist economy that exploits and endangers working-class people, abandons unprofitable towns to seek cheaper labor, and siphons wealth (natural and labor-made) into the hands of the rich. We do not blame the people who would seek to stand up for justice and work toward real, accountable measures.
3. Law Does Not Give Safety
To those who may label us vigilantes, and criticize us for circumventing the legal system, we have found the legal system to provide the opposite of safety in cases like this. Routinely in rape trials, disproportionate scrutiny is placed on the behaviors, dress, and supposed morals of women and queer or transgender people. Charges are dropped or never filed against accomplices and bystanders. And even locking up people who perpetrate does not necessarily increase the safety of a community or region. Criminalization and punitive justice more often treat criminalized individuals like discrete tumors that can be excised from an otherwise healthy body, rather than as symptoms of a widespread illness that has spread throughout the whole of a society, and with which all members of the society must reckon. Jail time will not solve the problem.
4. Supporting Survivors; Resisting Rape Culture
Finally, to those who may denounce our action as re-traumatizing the victim, who is likely to already be experiencing feelings of powerlessness that often come with being raped, we agree that survivor-centered work is essential for healing and justice. We support the survivor and her right to remain anonymous, in order to minimize the threat of backlash and to buffer the nationwide character assassination that is likely to occur once the trial begins. At the same time, for the reasons stated above, we also recognize that the particular rapists and apologists of this case, and the larger rape culture to which they contribute, pose an ongoing threat to the safety and harmony of our communities, as well. Inspired by the current struggles of indigenous peoples in the Americas- who themselves have survived programs of rape central to the colonizing of the US that have continued to this day- we will be idle no more. We proudly join our comrades of India fighting against rape culture, and reaffirm that rather than teaching girls not to get raped, we must teach boys — and children of all genders — not to rape. And that if they do, there will be consequences. We will make sure of it.
We envision a world without rape, and together we can take a historical, concrete step toward achieving it.
If you agree with this demand letter, please leave a supportive comment below. You can just say one or two words, explain why you support the demands, or tell a story that illustrates why this fight is important to you.
If all the demands are not met by the specified deadline, our growing ranks will mobilize to Steubenville.