How Anonymous hacking exposed Steubenville HS rape case
January 5, 2013
At an August football party in Steubenville, Ohio, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by multiple athletes as she lay unconscious. Now, because of social media, horrific details of the case have been leaked to the masses, inspiring a call for increased accountability and a protest planned for this Saturday.
While two boys were arrested and charged in relation to the alleged rape, several others have been accused of playing a role in the crime, either by watching without intervening or disseminating photographs of the attack. Due to the small town’s close-knit nature, accusations of a coverup have emerged.
According to various reports, an alleged “rape crew” dragged the young girl from party to party before she finally passed out. Testimony from witnesses suggests that she faced multiple sexual assaults while she was unconscious. One tweet suggests she may have been urinated on.
The victim did not realize she had been raped until she heard about the photographs, and then saw the images. One image shows two football players carrying the girl — who has not been identified because she is a minor — by her hands and ankles, as she hangs limp above the ground. The New York Timesreported that another image shows her lying naked on the floor.
Despite the disturbing nature of the case, for months only Alexandria Goddard of Prinniefied.com reported on the rape, documenting social media evidence with screenshots and suggesting a handful of perpetrators were to blame. Now that the hacktivist collective Anonymous has taken an interest in the case, new details are emerging. Photographs and other evidence on social media have raised questions about local authorities’ investigation.
After demanding a public apology from the boys they identified by name as the so-called “rape crew” by January 1, the rape-specific arm of Anonymous, KnightSec, released a disturbing video of a teenage boy who appears to be speaking moments after the rape occured. In it, he laughs at how the unconscious girl is “deader than Trayvon Martin,” was raped “quicker than Mike Tyson” and “more than [by] the Duke lacrosse team.” The same boy tweeted about the night, with disturbing posts like “Song of the night is definitely ‘Rape Me’ by Nirvana,” “you don’t sleep through a wang in the butthole,” and “some people deserve to be peed on.”
While Anonymous appears to have uncovered information that mainstream journalists could not, the police released a statement following the video’s release saying that law enforcement was aware of the footage and had interviewed the teen who made it. While police say witnesses have not heeded their calls to come forward, there appears to be an abundance of evidence suggesting other individuals were involved. But according to the New York Times, deleted images were unretrievable:
Eventually, 15 phones and 2 iPads were confiscated and analyzed by a cyber crime expert at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. That expert could not retrieve deleted photographs and videos on most of the phones.
In the end, the expert recovered two naked photographs of the girl. One photograph showed the girl face down on the floor at one party, naked with her arms tucked beneath her, according to testimony given at a hearing in October. The other photograph was not described. Both photographs were found on Mays’s iPhone. No photograph or video showed anyone involved in a sexual act with the girl.
Anonymous complaints and chatter on the Internet about a less than fully aggressive investigation have perhaps not surprisingly proliferated.
Adding to the Anonymous-led conspiracy theory is that Steubenville High head coach Reno Saccoccia did not bench or in any way suspend the players involved.
This incident happened nearly five months ago, but this case is finally starting to cause some outrage on a national scale. Coincidentally, after the House GOP let the Violence Against Women Act expire on January 2, Sen. Patty Murray is expected to reintroduce VAWA this year.
But smashing rape culture must go beyond an act of legislation. As writer Jessica Valenti for The Nation wrote:
"We live in a country where politicians call rape a “gift from God” and suggest that women regularly lie about being raped. Where a group of young men in high school think so little of sexual assault that they thought it was fine—hilarious, even—to post pictures online of a passed out rape victim, and to live-tweet the rape, joking about the victim being urinated on. We live in a country where media as revered as The New York Times finds it necessary to describe an 11-year-old gang rape victim as “wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.” Where a woman can be fired because her boss finds her “irresistable” and a woman’s rape case falls flat because she isn’t married.
It’s time to acknowledge that the rape epidemic in the United States is not just about the crimes themselves, but our own cultural and political willful ignorance.
Rape is as American as apple pie—until we own that, nothing will change.”