Your former best friend is the victim in the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial. She was very drunk and refused to leave that party with you last August when you were concerned about her safety. Three witnesses (who have received immunity) testified that she was so drunk she didn’t know what was happening to her that night. So drunk that she passed out. She was unaware that her incapacitated body was being carried around like a rag doll.
She was unaware that she would be raped in a car, then raped again when she was “passed out, naked, and face down on a basement floor.” As witness Anthony Craig put it, “She wasn’t moving, she wasn’t talking, she wasn’t participating.”
Your former best friend was so incapacitated in fact that party goer Michael Nodianos put on a 12-minute performance of mysogynistic masculinity where he talks about your former best friend as a “dead girl” (“deader than OJ’s wife”), describes students urinating on her, admits she was raped (“she is so raped right now”), and continues to joke about her being raped even after a concerned young man says “they raped her” and asks “what if that was your daughter?”
Your former best friend woke up naked in the basement the next morning and said she didn’t remember what had happened. Her conversations and text messages in the days following the incident confirm this.
Kelsey and Gianna, at the trial this week you testified against your former best friend, reporting that she has a history of drinking and telling lies, as though these facts somehow make her worthy of rape. When did you stop being her best friend? When did you decide that you would side with the alleged perpetrators in attacking her character, as though her actions somehow justified these heinous crimes?
Rape survivors often lose their friends when they “go public” with their experiences because they do not want to be branded with the social stigma that survivors face. According to Golden et al., “The continued judgment of, or distain for, victims of rape is a form of social stigmatization. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for victims of rape or sexual assault to suffer not just from the attack but also from their treatment by their friends and relatives afterwards” (The Truth About Rape, 2010).
Kelsey and Gianna, you live in a football town where two football players have been charged with rape, and, thanks to the work of Anonymous, we know that coaches, school leaders, town leaders and law enforcement officers have circled the wagons around the alleged perpetrators. You live in a town where people routinely blame your former best friend for crimes perpetrated by others. As one coach put it, “The rape was just an excuse, I think …What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?”
It takes courage to stand with a friend when some of the slut-shaming and victim-blaming filth thrown at her will land on you. It takes bravery to public admit that even imperfect girls can be raped. It takes a certain brand of loyalty to stand with your best friend when you know she’s been wronged, even if it means you’ll lose male attention and other friends, and face ridicule at school.
But it is vitally important that the survivors of sexual assault and rape know they are not alone: 1-in-33 men, 1-in-10 people in prison, 1-in-6 women, 1-in-4 women in college, 1-in-3 women on reservations. I can only imagine the awful pressures you are facing right now, but I hope that you will soon find the courage, bravery, and loyalty to stand with your former best friend.