Steubenville rape: New indictments send message on adult responsibility (+video)
The new charges against four school officials, including the superintendent, in the Steubenville rape case include obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.
In a case being watched nationwide, Ohioâ€™s attorney general has put adults on notice: When teens misbehave on your watch, you can and will be held accountable.
A special grand jury handed down four new indictments Monday inÂ the 2012 Steubenville case of a 16-year-old girlÂ who was raped by star high school football players following a night of drinking and partying.
The case drew national attention in part because of the way images of the sexual assault were spread on social media and because of accusations that the community sought to shield the football stars from allegations of wrongdoing.
The new indictments name four school officials â€“ including a superintendent, a principal, and two coaches â€“ for a slew of felony andÂ misdemeanor chargesÂ such as obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, failure to report child abuse, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
â€śThis community has been torn apart by the actions and the bad decisions not of the many â€“ but of the few,â€ť Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a press conference. While this began as a horrible crime, he noted, â€śit also represents blurred, stretched, and distorted boundaries of right and wrong.â€ť
The case may have begun with the kids, he said, â€śbut it is also just as much about the parents â€“ about the grown-ups, the adults. How do you hold the kids accountable if you donâ€™t hold the adults accountable?â€ť he said.
This is being watched as a test case for â€śmoral responsibilities,â€ť says San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Wendy Patrick. â€śIt sends the message that we canâ€™t hold kids responsible if we donâ€™t hold adults responsible,â€ť she says. â€śIt doesnâ€™t matter who you are, whether you are an actor or an accessory, you have a duty and aÂ responsibility to help find the truth, not tell kids you will hide or tamper with evidence to make it harder forÂ police to do their job,â€ť she adds.
These are issues thatÂ need to be taken seriously, not just by parents but by the schools, says Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance toÂ End Sexual Violence.Â â€śWe have seen progress on accountability on college campuses, butÂ we need mandatory reporting and more accountability at the high school level,â€ť she says.
The overall message is that we need to find ways to prevent sexual violence from happening, says Ms. Hanna. But â€śwhen it does happen,â€ť she adds, â€śwe need to send the message that there will be someone in place who will listen and believe theÂ victims, and there will be consequences in place.â€ť
Hanna notes that this is far from beingÂ an unusual case, pointing out that national statistics show that one in four high school girls entering college are likely to have been the victim of sexual violence during their high school years.
This case is providing an important focus on the high school crucible, says Beth Adubato, assistant professor of behavioral science at the New York Institute of Technology.
Many young woman who are victims of sexual assault on college campuses have their education cut short because of the aftermath of their experience â€“ the lack of investigative steps taken by the school administration, the lack of programs in schools that enlighten students on the pernicious problem of date rape or acquaintance rape, and not being believed or supported by the school community, she says.
â€śIf these experiences make it extremely difficult for college-aged students to continue their education, how much more difficult must it be for younger girls?â€ť she adds via e-mail.
In April of 2011, Professor Adubato notes, theÂ US Department of Education sent out a â€śDear Colleague Letter,â€ť providing guidance to college administrators on concerns that arise in sexual violence cases.
â€śShould high school administrations be held to a lesser standard?â€ť she asks, adding, â€śI think not.â€ť