The Other McCain

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The Rush to Judgment: Is Torrington Destined to Be the Next Steubenville?

Posted on | March 20, 2013 | 14 Comments

Two 18-year-olds in Torrington, Conn., are charged with sexually assault. The case involves a 13-year-old, and it has caused some ugly reaction:

[O]n social media in recent weeks, dozens of athletes and Torrington High School students, male and female, have taunted the 13-year-old victim, calling her a “whore,” criticizing her for “snitching” and “ruining the lives” of the 18-year-old football players, and bullying students who defend her.
“Even if it was all his fault, what was a 13 year old girl doing hanging around 18 year old guys..” said a Twitter user with the handle, “@LoryyRamirez.” That was reposted 11 times and received six favorites.

Balancing the rights of victims and the rights of the accused can be difficult in such cases, and when rape accusations become national headlines, commentary is often wildly irresponsible. Lee Stranahan covered the ways in which reaction to the Steubenville case led to false accusations of a “cover-up” that impugned the entire community. Dana Pico at First Street Journal reminds us of another media-created travesty:

Many of our friends on the left immediately jumped on the guilty, guilty, guilty! bandwagon in the infamous Duke lacrosse team not-rape case, including our old friend Amanda Marcotte, who was extremely reluctant to believe that Crystal Gail Mangum might actually have lied when she made the accusations, stating that the charges were dropped against the three accused lacrosse players because the “prosecution in the Duke case fumbled the ball.” ….One of Miss Marcotte’s commenters even held that:

Rape is a crime unlike others. In any rape case, but especially in a rape case where a black woman accuses a white man, the rapist should be considered guilty until he proves his innocence. And he must prove his innocence not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any possible doubt. The Durham rapists have not done so, by any means.

The rush to judgment, the irresponsible haste to comment on what happened before we actually know what happened, causes all kinds of unecessary problems in situations like these. Trying criminal cases in the media is always a bad idea, and using blog comments as a way to vent personal or political sentiments about a rape case can easily turn into a digital lynch mob mentality.



14 Responses to “The Rush to Judgment: Is Torrington Destined to Be the Next Steubenville?”

  1. Bill
    March 21st, 2013 @ 12:05 am

    And would this be your reaction if it was your sister?

  2. megan
    March 21st, 2013 @ 3:31 am

    He would all of a sudden start caring.

  3. Dandapani
    March 21st, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    And would this be your reaction if you were accused of rape by a coworker seeking some advantage over you in the work place?

  4. SDN
    March 21st, 2013 @ 7:44 am

    If it was my sister, I would have staged an intervention long before it got to this point.

  5. Garym
    March 21st, 2013 @ 8:19 am

    So its guilty until proven innocent then?

  6. Rene
    March 21st, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    And would this be your reaction if you or your brother were falsely accused of raping someone else’s sister?

    I have known two young men who have had their lives turned upside down by young women who found it easier to tell their parents that they were raped rather than to admit that they made a consensual mistake and found themselves pregnant.

    Though the young women finally admitted (one case went all the way into the trial process before she finally broke down on the stand) that they LIED, the young men in question are still viewed by many in the community to be rapists. Nothing can ever undo the damage that has been done to them.

    I am a woman, yes. But as an American who believes in due process, which these young men were denied, I find that horrifying.

  7. Scape
    March 21st, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    A 13 year old cannot consent to sex with an 18 year old.

    No one seems to be disputing that a crime occurred here, but the community is blaming the 13 year old for it.

    So your concerns about a ‘rush to judgment’ when media accounts show support for a rape victim, and publicize the actions of those rushing to judgment against her, seem unfounded.

  8. SemperWhy
    March 21st, 2013 @ 9:47 am

    I would hope that his reaction to his sister being raped (beyond the obvious) would be “Dear god, please don’t let this become a media circus. It will bring Teh Stupid into our lives.”

  9. Gunnutmegger
    March 21st, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    The original offense is bad, if true.

    The bullying is worse.

    One Jerry Sandusky was enough. Just say no to the misbehavior of athletic departments.

  10. Sarah Wells
    March 21st, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    Agreed. The vicious comments all assume sexual contact occurred. I would judge anyone made such a comment on the spot, as a bad person.

  11. dancermommd
    March 21st, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    In the Durham case one of the guys was at an ATM at the time of the “rape” and yet he still was dragged through the courts as guilty until proven innocent. Where was the justice for him? I pray they get to the bottom of it so it can quickly be resolved. And the 13 year old should not be bullied for it. That’s wrong all the way around.

  12. Dana
    March 21st, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

    Thanks for the (very much fished for 🙂 ) link.

  13. Dana
    March 21st, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

    The next spate of stories in the professional media indicate that there was consensual sex between the accused and the 13-year-old victims. It is rape because, under Connecticut law, any sexual contact with a 13 year old by someone more than 3 years older is rape.

  14. Dana
    March 21st, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

    When you say “the community is blaming the 13 year old for it,” it would be more accurate to say that the teenaged community is blaming the 13 year olds (plural) for this.

    A 13 year old cannot legally consent to sex with an 18 year old in Connecticut, but if the media reports are accurate – and the accused deny it – the 13 year olds did consent in a practical sense to sex with the 18 year olds. It seems as though the high school community sees that practical consent as sufficient.

    When I was a teenager — back in medieval times — we did have the saying “sixteen will get you twenty.” Somehow, we were expected to understand that statutory rape really was rape as far as the law was concerned, and, assuming that the legal charges are accurate in the Torrington cases, it ought to be incumbent upon the 18 year olds that you just can’t [insert slang term for fornicate here] a 13 year old and not get in trouble.