Real Story Not Just In Steubenville

Keep the number 38,762 in mind. We’ll get back to it.

Widespread national and even international attention to allegations two Steubenville High School students raped a girl last summer isn’t fair in a lot of ways.

First, some of what’s being said and written – usually in quotes from people protesting something about the situation – amounts to cheap shots against police and prosecuting attorneys at both the local and state levels. And it isn’t fair to the community as a whole.

There have been implications that, allegedly because high school football players were involved, some sort of coverup has occurred – that law enforcement officials haven’t arrested everyone who should be behind bars.

Nonsense. The cops I know really don’t care who you are if they suspect you’ve hurt a child. If they can prove it, you’re in a world of trouble.

But that’s the problem. In case some of the protesters have forgotten, we still believe in “innocent until proven guilty” in this country. That’s how cops and prosecutors have to do their jobs.

And while some of the behavior linked to the case – in particular a young man’s videotaped observations about the rape – is disgusting, it probably isn’t illegal.

But let’s get to a more important unfairness about attention being paid to the Steubenville case: Except for some among protesters who have visited the Jefferson County courthouse during the past couple of weeks, most of the focus has been on events surrounding the local rape itself.

As upsetting as what happened last August to the teenage girl in Steubenville is, however, attention by the national news media implies this kind of thing is rare.

It is not. Remember that number? 38,762? By one estimate, that’s the number of children aged 12-18 who are forcibly raped every year in the United States. That number may be low; some advocacy organizations insist the actual figure may be as much as twice that.

And whatever the number, it doesn’t count sexual assaults against children that don’t amount legally to forcible rape. It also doesn’t count children who, for one reason or another, never told anyone about being raped – or, perhaps, told adults who didn’t do anything about it.

In other words, what happened in Steubenville is only part of the story.

What about the fact two high school students are accused of raping the local girl? Again, not unusual. It’s estimated that between 15-20 percent of the forcible rapes, with victims of any age, reported in this country are committed by juveniles.

So the real story is this: How is it that some juvenile males think it’s all right to rape a girl? How is it that others believe it’s acceptable to brag about having watched it happen?

And perhaps most troubling of all, why didn’t any of the witnesses do anything to stop the assault? As I’ve noted previously, cell phones are equipped with more than video cameras. They also are capable of dialing 911.

Why didn’t anyone do that?

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