Of course, when the verdict came down, they cried. They are teenage boys and, like the child who apologizes not for having stolen the cookie but for being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, aren’t particularly happy about seeing the aftermath of their crimes. They were raised in a community which taught them, in no uncertain terms, that they did not abide by the same rules as everyone else. Whether they wanted to do a little underage drinking, or get in a fight, or touch a young girl who was unable to give her consent — it was all supposed to be okay. And even though the sentence was, by many standards, ludicrously light, they were facing the consequences of their actions…
It has been noted that the boys who stood by and either filmed or said nothing were “unaware” that what they were witnessing was rape, even as she was being dragged around, half-naked and unconscious. And that ignorance — that failure to understand that sexual assault is not some mythical crime which only exists when a stranger in a ski mask pops out of bushes — is a direct result of rhetoric along the lines of CNN’s. When we frame rape and sexual assault in such a narrow way, and when we pour our sympathy on those teenage boys who just went a little too far on a fun night of drinking, we tell the vast majority of victims that their pain doesn’t actually count. If you do not fit the narrative, and if you are not the ideal victim who is unequivocally above criticism, your violation counts just slightly less.
CNN should be ashamed of themselves, and we should all be taking to their social media to tell them how we feel about their decision to frame the verdict in such a way. Because as long as we continue to pretend as though sexual assault is some big, scary monster and date rapes or acquaintance rape are its harmless little cousin which shouldn’t be taken too seriously, that is exactly how our men will continue seeing them. They will rape their classmates or friends or date and never feel they were doing anything wrong. And we will tell our daughters not to drink too much at this party, even though we all know it will never really keep her safe."