Henry Rollins Comments On Steubenville Rape Verdict

henry rollins

One story that has captivated our staff and nation in recent months is the tale of a sixteen-year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio who was raped by two high school football players last summer. Yesterday morning, an Ohio court found the two teens charged in the case, Trent Mays (17) and Ma’lik Richmond (16), guilty and sentenced them to at least one year in juvenile jail. They could be held until they are 21 years old. Mays was sentenced to an additional year for a charge related to distributing nude images of a minor. More details on that can be found here.

As you can probably imagine, the reaction to this conviction has been loud and divided, with many turning to their internet to vent. One of those people, punk legend Henry Rollins, posted a lengthy blog yesterday afternoon focusing on the verdict and what the case means on a much larger scale. You can read his words below.


For the last couple of hours, I have been thinking of the verdict that was reached in what is now known as the Steubenville rape case.

Since all involved are minors, I won’t use anyone’s name. Two juvenile males were found delinquent of the charges and will be, as far as I understand, incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility until they are twenty-one years of age.

There is, I guess, cell phone generated video content of parts of the crime. It went “viral” on the internet and brought attention to the events.

I got through a few minutes of it but was too disgusted to watch the rest.

The case, the verdict and the surrounding circumstances open up a huge conversation.

These are a few of the things that I have been thinking about.

After reading several posts online, I was not surprised at the vast range of sentiments expressed. Many of the postings were of outrage that the two found delinquent were not tried as adults so they would face much longer sentences. You might not know, but in some states, this sentence would be decades long. Many of the posts spoke of the damage done to the victim and the life she will have now. One person suggested caning the two young men. Many others were angered at the deification of high school football players and how they often receive special treatment. You can read this stuff all day if you want.

After reading posts for quite awhile, I thought first about the two young men. I wondered if the years in the facility will “help” them. What, exactly does one “learn” in one of these places? That is to say, after five years locked away, does the idea of assaulting a woman seem like the wrong thing to do, more than if you were incarcerated for one year? Would you be “more sorry” about what you did? Is that possible? Or, would you just be more sorry for yourself about where your actions landed you? At what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?

What made these young people think that that what they did was ok? What was in their upbringing, the information and morals instilled in them that allowed them to do what they did, minute after minute, laughing, joking, documenting it and then calling it a night and going home? Out of all the people who were witness to what happened, why wasn’t there someone putting a stop to it?

What I am attempting to get at, and I apologize if I am not being clear enough is that this is a failure on many levels. Parents, teachers, coaches, peers all come into play here. I am not trying to diffuse blame or lessen the awfulness of what happened but I want to address the complexity of the cause in an effort to assess the effect so it can be prevented.

Some might say that the two going to the youth facility are as much victims as the young women who was assaulted. I do not agree. The two are offenders. What they did was obviously wrong. That being said, we cannot end the discussion at that point and expect things to change.

I have yet to say anything about the damage done to the young woman involved. It is ironic and sad that the person who is going to do a life sentence is her.

As a testament to the horrific power of sexual assault, I encourage you to see, yet cannot recommend the documentary The Invisible War about sexual assault in the military. http://invisiblewarmovie.com/. The reason I say that I cannot recommend it is that it is so well done, so clear and devastating that it will put you through quite a wringer. I do hope you see it but damn, it’s hard. In the interviews with women who have been assaulted by fellow members, the damage that has been done to these good people is monumental.

Many people are angry that more time was not given to the offenders. This seems to be the prevailing sentiment. I understand the anger but don’t know if adding a decade onto their sentences would be of any benefit. To me, the problem that needs to be addressed is where in the information chain were the two offenders made to understand that what they did was not wrong on every possible level? You can execute them both tomorrow but still, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

It’s a situation where you would like to be able to point a finger and say, that’s the reason and be done. You have to be careful when you do this because it’s easy to miss.

I think to a great degree, we humans still divide ourselves into two species, even though we are monotypic. There are males and females. We see them as different and not equal. Things get better when women get more equality. That is a bit obvious but I think it leads to better results up the road. If it’s a man’s world as they say, then men, your world is a poorly run carnage fest.

It is obvious that the two offenders saw the victim as some one that could be treated as a thing. This is not about sex, it is about power and control. I guess that is what I am getting at. Sex was probably not the hardest thing for the two to get, so that wasn’t the objective. When you hear the jokes being made during the crime, it is the purest contempt.

So, how do you fix that? I’m just shooting rubber bands at the night sky but here are a few ideas: Put women’s studies in high school the curriculum from war heroes to politicians, writers, speakers, activists, revolutionaries and let young people understand that women have been kicking ass in high threat conditions for ages and they are worthy of respect.

Total sex ed in school. Learn how it all works. Learn what the definition of statutory rape is and that it is rape, that date rape is rape, that rape is rape.

In the spirit of equal time, sites like Huffington Post should have sections for male anatomy hanging out instead of just the idiotic celebrity “side boob” and “nip slip” camera ops. I have no idea what that would be like to have a camera in my face at every turn, looking for “the” shot. I know what some of you are saying. “Then why do they wear clothes like that unless they want those photos taken?” I don’t know what to tell ya. Perhaps just don’t take the fuckin picture? Evolve? I don’t know.

Education, truth, respect, equality—these are the things that can get you from a to b very efficiently.

It must be an awful time for the parents of all three of these people and their relatives and I hope they all get to a better place soon.

What else? That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading this. Henry


James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Did I say that? Are there words between the lines of words that i’m typing or are you just filling in the blanks with what you want to argue with? If that’s the case by all means let me step aside and allow you some room to act out.

  • How about teaching women not to be whores? Cause saying that men need to be “taught” not to rape is the exact same thing. How about we just teach our children to be better people over all rather then calling out a whole gender as rapists?

  • Yes. Thank you Thomas. that is exactly it. I’m just seriously getting sick of this whole. “teach men not to rape” bullshit. Rape is a crime. Just like murder and theft. As well women have been the cause of raping and violating men and other women as well. So to call out a single gender as the only perpetrators of a crime is an insult at best.

  • What double standard? Do you allow your sons to go out and get sloppy drunk? If so maybe you’re the type of parent that is the problem with the children of today. I know that will not be something that is allowed in my home with my son.

  • Obviously that was not their intention for the night. So who else should bear the responsibility to look after her but herself? I hope you have taught your sons well. I know I am teaching mine. But as this incident and many that have happened before just like it, should go to show you and I and all parents that some parents don’t teach their kids well. And why is it such a foreign concept to expect people to be responsible for themselves and to maintain some composure when they decide to go out drinking? (even when they are underage and shouldn’t be drinking to the point of blacking out to begin with). We can’t control the actions of others. only those of ourselves so what so wrong about expecting people(we are speaking in generalities at this point) to be responsible for themselves?

  • Only when one of the parties decides afterwards that they regret their actions. Or there is a disagreement. Then the woman can claim rape against the male.

  • Lie in fear? who said anything about living in fear? Sorry to burst your bubble princess but this is a cruel world. you don’t think boys hear a lot of the same things about being careful and watching out for yourself?
    You don’t think that we already fucking know that rape is bad? Just like Murder is bad and theft is bad and swearing in front of children is bad. We already fucking know its bad. But guess what. Some people are assholes and do shit anyways.

  • Sara Potter

    When reporting the rape becomes less traumatic than the rape itself (which, sadly, is frequently the case), maybe that’ll actually happen. I get your point about funding and reporting, but putting the onus on the person who’s already been traumatized to make things right–especially when that involves going through a trauma potentially far worse than the original assault–is still totally victim blaming.

    It’s not even about funding; it’s about the way the police, school officials, teachers, coaches, etc., are trained (or not) to respond to reports of sexual assault in the first place in such a way that the victim is frequently shamed and held responsible for the assault. Google “I regret reporting my rape” sometime if you want to be completely depressed.

  • Maybe they have the highest conviction rate because they have the lowest prosecution rate. When I was raped, the attacker claimed he was my boyfriend! Even though all my friends told the cops he was lying, the cops refused to prosecute the case–despite the fact that I was covered with abrasions & contusions from head to toe. The real truth was, I was a low income woman on disability and the cops didn’t want to bother. After I made the report to the police, the guy tried to kill me for talking and stalked me for over 10 years. I’m still living in hiding because of this man, because Victim Witness says they can’t tell me if he’ incarcerated unless it’s within our county. And the man’s own son told me this brute brags that he’s committed 3 more rapes since me–he says the key to getting away with it is to never commit more than one rape within a given jurisdiction. As far as I’m concerned, the real reason there is so much rape is because the courts treat it as a joke and let the rapists out of prison after too short a period. The predators aren’t helped by therapy, and the only cure is death. You want to see rape stopped? The put the rapists to death, especially if there is direct DNA evidence proving they committed the crime.

  • we should just castrate all football and basket ball players they are damaging to society we give stupid people tons of money while teachers can’t feed their children

  • Yeah, that’s what the advocate from the women’s shelter told be when I went to them for help. And all it got me was more misery–in fact, that advise nearly got me killed. Rape victims are not statistics, they’re human beings with lives and feelings. And more police WOULDN’T be out there because the cops tend to treat women as neurotics instead of victims. You may know the results of not reporting, but I know the results of reporting, and if anyone asked me, I’d tell them to make their own choose but be aware that the cops will blow you off and you’ll most likely get the rapist more riled up. You remind me of the advocates at the women’s shelter, who all had their own agenda; they claimed they were there for the victim, but they were really trying to get victims to report rape so THEY could get grant money to help their own shelter.

  • i bet you would get allot of support in that and get pardoned

  • all rapes must be reported those men should not be left to rape another

  • did they play sports too cuz there is a huge problem in sports protecting rapists

  • Zero

    U mad, bro? You were the one saying we ought to educate our women to be accountable for their actions at least as well as men. I’m just pointing out that we’ve been doing this for years.

    The “tough shit, you should have followed these rules” method of victim-blaming doesn’t seem to be working out so well for men OR women. Is the strategy of teaching people how not to be assholes such a terrible thing?

  • And I personally have to doubt someone who claims to have been raped too many times to count. Sounds to me that you’re an attention seeker, making claims so everyone will give you sympathy. If you were truly raped that many times, you’d understand why what you keep saying is so screwed up. And when someone calls you on your harsh words, you hide behind your senior status and accuse THEM of being rapists! Nobody put any words in your mouth; the words you wrote are right there in front of us for all to see, and you ARE blaming the victims. In fact, from what I can see, you’re blaming EVERYBODY to avoid taking responsibility for the callous words you’ve written.

  • Shame on you.

  • Didn’t say that. If you wish to have a discussion don’t attempt to add to my statements so they fit your argument.

  • You’re mixing apples and oranges, which is the hallmark of an irrational argument. Beating up somebody’s kid has zilch to do with rape. And a victim isn’t responsible for the next victim. The rapist is responsible for the next victim, period. After what I went through, if I were raped again, I wouldn’t tell the cops because THE COPS DON’T CARE. You want to blame someone for the fact that victims don’t report? BLAME THE COPS FOR NOT PURSUING RAPES AND JUDGES FOR GIVING THEM SLAPS ON THE WRIST & THEN LETTING THE RAPIST OUT EARLY!

  • And? So you advocate for women to go and get passed out drunk? That is acceptable behavior to you? and you also claim that nothing bad ever happened before this incident to women that are passed out drunk?

  • And puppy dogs too. What were you saying?

  • Your right. being an easy target had nothing to do with being raped. Except that it specifically did. Does that make it right? nope. But it is a factor.

  • You should be tho. I mean this isn’t that golden age you reflect on that never existed. Bad people are out there and they will do bad shit to those that are easy targets. That’s why your insurance company tells you to bug off when you call them to tell them you left your doors unlocked and got robbed. Cause to some degree you didn’t take the reasonable precautionsto protect your home.

  • Sorry, but I can’t believe any woman who claims she was raped that many times in so many different ways. I’ve met people like you before, who claim rape to get attention. And the fact that you’re now bragging about how you’re ‘routinely praised” for your opinions by “hundreds of people” tells me you brag about your many supposed rapes on a regular basis so you can pretend to be some kind of heroine. Since at least one rape was acquitted leads me to believe a jury of your peers didn’t believe you, any more than I now do. Then there’s your claim that rape isn’t any different than a bike being stolen or white collar fraud. That, more than anything else, tells me you’ve never been raped. You say you hate Texas? Well, I hate those who make false rape claims because it just makes it harder for the rest of us who really were victimized. Frankly, the more I read of your comments, the more I’m guessing you have some sort of mental illness, possibly something like Borderline Personality disorder.

  • I can tell you’re a man, because you have no concept of what it feels like to be violated. It doesn’t matter what they penetrated her with, the fact remains, they penetrated her genitals without her knowledge and permission. The fact that it didn’t go beyond that wasn’t for lack of intent. One boy was seen trying to force his penis in her mouth. He lay beside her with his penis exposed, slapping himself against her thigh! If there hadn’t been so many witnesses, I have no doubt he’d have gone further–but he knew what he was doing was wrong! Thomas Olsen, you’re a really sick man and the fact that you don’t see anything wrong with what these boys did tells me you’ve probably performed similar crimes in the past and gotten away with it.

  • Wow, you are so out there! You’re a professional victim, crying rape so everyone will simultaneously feel sorry for you and admire your bravery. You know, I’ve known older women who were raised in the era before it was socially acceptable to have sex, and many of them claim rape to cover up the fact that they willingly had casual sex with men. Since you clearly have no sense of personal responsibility and no empathy with rape victims, in addition to the fact that you keep whining about how you’re the greatest victim of all while accusing anyone who stands up to you all manner of names, I’m betting you’re from that generation. You don’t see any difference between rape and any other crime: that tells me you’re lying about being rape, because someone who is truly raped knows it’s like being murdered. After I was raped, the person I had been no longer existed, and I felt my original self had died. You weren’t trying to comfort that young woman, you were trying to blame her for being violated. A real rape victim would never do that. And the arrogance here is all coming from YOU. By the way, I’m not a grandmother yet but my hair is white & I collect SSA–and I’m still calling you out on your obvious lies. The only one here who’s raping anyone — in a psychological sense — is YOU, Granny, You’re doing your best to make someone in pain feel worse. That’s not comfort, Granny, that’s plain evil.

  • Ron Viramontes

    Although Sherri these two boys didnt use their dicks (I dont believe) in their assault. I think they were only convicted of “digital rape.” So maybe cut off their hands? Seems fair!

  • disqus_LFznHZNz07

    Rollins was right to point out that education is the key. Morality is objective and learned empirically and must be taught. I would go much further though and suggest (as I have for many years) that classes on morality and politics should be taught in school. We can’t count on parents and the general social environment to do this properly. The reason the world is run so poorly and people do so many bad things is because we aren’t educated on how to be morally and politically responsible, which are related of course.

  • diannna

    Nice but as far as giving the two juvies more time will that fix them, probably no but they deserve more punishment simply because they commited a crime.

    Simply put, if that’s the attitude to have then why give any criminal more time if it may not fix them, You give them more time because they need to be punished, it’s nothing about whether it will fix or help them in the future. If you do the crime then do the time !

  • What about the rapist being to blame, by her not saying anything that’s her right. Lets blame the rapist

  • RAPE CULTURE. Have you heard of it? It exists. Full stop. This rambling article could be replaced by that simple sentiment. Commenters: stop judging people for not reporting. Stop blaming VICTIMS. Oh, and Henry, gets your facts straight re: sentencing. Mays, 17, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system. The other, Ma’lik Richmond, 16, was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both COULD end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the State Department of Youth Services, but don’t hold your breath.

  • Nancy Newman

    What an enlightened male you are, Henry Rollins! Bravo for an intelligent, reasoned article that focuses on all areas. I agree that the “crime” started way before the “act.” So many young people today think that digital penetration is not “sex” or that oral sex is not “sex.” I would bet in their minds, they didn’t equate it with sex at all because she was just “fingered.” So back to your suggestion of real sex ed in the classroom. They need to know these things, and that there can be real consequences to their actions and choices. They do need to be held accountable, but right now, I think their only remorse is that they got caught. I don’t believe they understand yet that what they did was wrong. As the mother of a son, I do “feel” for the boys and the affect their poor choices and judgment will have on their lives. But having experienced rape on more than one occasion, I also feel for the young girl in this case, and know the affect it will have on her life as well. We, as a society, just have to come up with a solution.

  • Hitler clearly did not hold a world view that all men were created in the image of God & endowed by Him with unalienable rights. Where someone is educated can be influential in forming their worldview, but it is only one part of many influences. Many Germans who stood up to Hitler and attempted to stop his atrocities were also educated at religious schools. Hitler was heavily influenced by Darwinism. He is a perfect example of where taking that line of thinking leads when taken to the extreme. Fortunately our creator also gave us an internal sense of right and wrong, so most of those who firmly believe in evolution are held in check by their consciences. If not, we would literally be living through hell on earth.

  • Irene Bolger

    Thank you Henry Rollins. I don’t know you of course, being Australian, but that was the most rational response to this that I could hope for. As a person who was raped in 1976, but who is now a criminal defence barrister ( am the defence counsel in trials) I respect the overall view that you’ve taken. It is complicated and there are some serious problems with how sports “heroes” are treated in Australia as well. It gives them an unfettered feeling of entitlement and power which, because of the physical nature of what they do, and the importance placed on physical endeavour, makes them contemptuous of women who are physically inferior, as though this is more important than intelligence and the endeavour of the mind.

  • Irene Bolger

    Thomas Olsen, you have a worrying attitude if you think that if you have too much to drink that it’s alright to rape an unconscious young women. Penetration by anything is rape and is unconscionable.

  • Henry, you are a wise man. We need people like you in politics, who are fed up with the system. Isn’t that why “punk” was born? I know I would listen should you make your voice louder. Jesse Ventura was a great antibody amongst the rampant disease that rules this world. WE NEED MORE ANTIBODIES!!!

  • Since you apparently forgot, you also said this: ” you don’t stop your offender, you are allowing them to offend again, it’s that simple, some of the blood is on your hands!”

    You may not be blaming her for HER rape, but you are certainly blaming her for every other victims’.

  • barefootrev

    This is a complex issue. There is no simple solution. I agree with Henry Rollins that women’s studies and education are ways to start. There is another important point I believe should be addressed. Currently we consider rape a “Sex” crime. It is not a sex crime it is battery. It may include human anatomy that is often connected with sexual acts, but it has nothing to do with sex. It is about power, control, domination, and humiliation. Even if a rapist’s penis were removed this would not stop the rapist from raping. To change the culture of blaming the victim, we must change the culture of how we view rape. It is a violent crime of battery. Every person should have the fundamental right to feel that their person and their body will not be violated.

  • Great article!

  • I’ve been in detention centers. Truth is, they don’t really offer the kind of therapy that they need, but offers more discipline than anything, though I believe the same can be said about jail. I honestly don’t think these boys feel any remorse for what they’ve done, only that they got caught doing it. I’m not going to sit here and say that one can’t change their behavior because it may actually be possible, but they have to want to change. In this kind of situation, I can’t help but be angry because while one can change, changing doesn’t erase what was done to this young girl. Whether they change or not, it won’t erase her pain, nor give back all that was taken from her.

  • I have been reading the comments and I am completely appalled by some of them. I can’t stop shaking my head at how callous humans can be, and how empathy seems to be completely lacking in some. Ok, so, as far as we know, there was no “penile” intercourse forced on this young woman. BUT…..what we do know thanks to the absolute idiocy of these boys, is that they used their fingers to penetrate her, repeatedly. All the while thinking it was cool to take pictures and post it on the internet for all to see, and where it could possibly be for all time. Thoughtful of them. This young woman was so inebriated that she was, for all intents and purposes, unconscious. And while in this incapacitated state, these young men CHOSE to violate her. How is any of what these boys did HER FAULT?? This disgusting violation was NOT HER FAULT! She did NOT ask to have fingers shoved up into her. She did NOT ask for pictures to be taken of these acts, nor did she ask for the whole world to see them. While I find it sad that three lives have been destroyed by this vile incident, only ONE has been destroyed through no fault of her own. The other two lives were destroyed by their own actions and choices. I can tell you, any single person who is trying to blame the victim needs to look at a 15 yr old girl in their lives, daughter, neice, neighbour etc… and imagine this happening to her…………..and then imagine how you would feel. RAPE is ugly, no matter the instrument used to violate. I don’t give a rats ass if is was a pinky finger……it is VIOLATING her! I have two daughters, and I can tell you, hell would be closing its doors in fear of me!! As a woman, and especially as a mother, I will not accept societys lack of concern and seemingly blind eye for our well being!!!

  • Michael

    You have not given the wrong impression G ; ‘And if she doesn’t report it, she is party to the next victim’s misery ‘ sounds pretty clear to me .

  • Michael

    You just don’t get it do you .

  • Michael

    The Pyramids were probably built using a type of tythe labour , not slaves .

  • Michael

    What is your problem Juan , does all this remind you of something ..

  • Michael

    Then you may as well piss off then , what are you doing here ?

  • I was sexually abused by my Middle School counselor Richard Kemp back in the early 70’s and told the police about it. He walked away to keep abusing more children (I’d seen him many years later with young boys) and he was never charged with a crime. And yes there were laws on the books then that made this a punishable offense. I was branded a problem student because of “my attitude” and the MN Supreme Courts ruled in his favor many years later. For some reason the system thinks this type of behavior is good to go and doesn’t condemn it. I on the other hand can’t help but feel at times that I’ve not become all that I could due the the crippling affects of abuse, which are too many to go into in this small forum, and to some degree have wasted my short life on this earth.There were many times in my youth that I had a gun in my mouth and believed that that was the solution. I too am of the belief that had this ever happened to my son that I most definitely would be in prison for the murder of his abuser.

  • ben

    He Is well spoken and driven by a understanding that some one brought him to. Though I can not belive all I read once you see his album covers like NIEC. It is esay to be hipicritcal. It is the best of both worlds and allows you to not have to walk the walk you talk.

    ben in RI

  • Spooky Mulder

    I was raped by two men and because I told the cops, I was very nearly arrested. I was told by the detective I “had buyer’s remorse”, that I “wanted it”, and heavily implied that I was a slut. He told my mother all this too and also told her that he was highly considering putting out a warrant for my arrest for “a false police report”. When I asked to go to the emergency room, he screamed at me, “Why, you didn’t get raped!”
    That was the worst and most terrifying night I ever had and the brutal reaction from the cops was just as emotionally devastating for me as the rape itself. Ever since then I get jittery, nervous, anxious, and scared when I’m alone within the vicinity of a cop.

  • the Sequel

    Shame on Rollins. I lost a lot of respect for him right here. He chose very poorly in picking this case to make his point against “tough sentencing.” One year in Juvie?? Every other year we hear of a large rape case like this involving jocks, and it ends up in either light to no sentencing. Not to mention the hundreds that don’t make the news. Meanwhile there’s a swell of “do-gooder” concern for the “poor athletes who will have their lives ruined.” The best thing these guys could have gotten, beyond education and all that which is past history now, is a “scared straight” experience – being tried as adults, and all those involved exposed and being brought to justice. Instead, people continue to shelter them from the consequences of their truly evil acts, sympathizing with how horrible it must be for them to be exposed and pay for what they’ve done. Shame on Rollins. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth on this one.