Judge Thomas Lipps issued his verdict in the Steubenville rape case on Sunday, convicting Trent Mays and Mal'ik Richmond in the rape of a 16-year-old girl. But a wider investigation about the role of parents, coaches and school officials in the sexual assault coverup is ongoing.
As the Associated Press reports:
The announcement of the guilty verdict was barely an hour old Sunday when state Attorney General Mike DeWine said he was continuing his investigation and would consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the attack last summer. That group could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school’s beloved football team, which has won nine state championships.
A grand jury will meet in mid-April to consider evidence gathered by investigators from dozens of interviews, including with the football team’s 27 coaches.
In addition to damning text messages exchanged between Mays and Steubenville's Jane Doe, other texts introduced at the trial indicate that the high school football team's head coach was aware of the rape but chose to remain silent. Ohio state law requires coaches and other school officials to report suspected child abuse.
Noting the importance of holding others accountable, DeWine told the Associated Press: "I’ve reached the conclusion that this investigation cannot be completed, simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury.”
And rather than paint rape and assault as a problem unique to the Ohio football town, DeWine is hoping the profile of a grand jury investigation will show that sexual violence is a societal problem that cuts across all communities.
That's something that many people may still need to hear, as evidenced by media coverage of the case. Instead of addressing a culture that sanctions sexual violence or the impact of that violence on its victims, newspapers and talking heads largely framed the Steubenville verdict as a lesson about social media and how underage drinking can ruin the "promising young lives" of boys like Mays and Richmond.
As Salon's Irin Carmon notes, if there are lessons to be learned from the rape trial -- and this broader investigation -- it's that "this isn’t the end of the story."
As important as holding responsible parties accountable is, the ongoing process of seeking justice for all survivors of sexual violence is just as necessary. That means creating a culture that does not tolerate sexual assault, does not blame victims for the violence committed against them and that empowers bystanders, whether peers, parents, teachers or other community members, to understand what rape is -- and their shared responsibility to stop it.