It lasted for hours. The pictures circulated online show the unconscious teenage girl hung like a shot steer between two laughing young men, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who were convicted this week of driving her from party to party, raping her, assaulting her, and filming themselves doing so. Videos from the night include an extended tape of a friend of the attackers in drunken spasms of joy about just how ‘dead’ the girl looked as she was handed around. “She’s deader than OJ’s wife!” he giggles to himself as his mates film him. It was sadistic young men like this with whom the mainstream media expressed immediate sympathy following the guilty verdict.


On August 11th, 2012, a young girl was repeatedly raped in Steubenville while unconscious. The picture above was actually posted by the perpetrators, showing her off in a manner not dissimilar to how hunters hold a kill.

This case showed a lot of problems with the ingrained rape culture in society, with CNN’s coverage focusing on how awful it was for the two boys found guilty to have their lives ruined by being convicted of rape.

Real rape photos are rare, they don’t appear often, making the Steubenville case unusual.

Laurie Penny compared the Steubenville rape case to the Abu Ghraib torture photos, saying,

‘Steubenville is rape culture’s Abu Ghraib moment. It’s the moment when America and the world are being forced, despite ourselves, to confront the real human horror of the rapes and sexual assaults that take place in their thousands every day in our communities.’

‘Here we have incontrovertible evidence of happy young people not only hurting and humiliating others, but taking pleasure in it, posing with their victims. The Abu Ghraib torture pictures were trophies. The Steubenville rape photos are trophies. They’re mementoes of what must have felt, at the time, like everyone was having the sort of fun they’d want to remember, the sort of fun they’d want to prove to themselves and others later. The Steubenville rapists had fun, and they broadcast that fun to the world. They were confident that nothing could touch them, so baffled by the idea of punishment that they wept like children in court.’

The comparison between Steubenville and Abu Ghraib is interesting, as the Abu Ghraib photos were much more circulated, and are still spoken about in much more detail.

Lynndie-England-Abu-Ghraib pic

This can be put down to the Abu Ghraib incident being a larger incident, but it can also be argued that this is due to the ingrained social stigma about talking about rape, and the rape myths that still perpetrate a culture of victim blaming.

This is supported by people defending the rapists online, and feeling sympathy for the ruins of their future careers. It was pretty widely accepted that what happened to the prisoners at Abu Ghraib was unacceptable, but the ingrained rape culture within society saw people arguing that the girl could given consent, even though she was unconscious, and that she was to blame for what happened because she willingly got in a car with them and drank alcohol.

The discrepancies in society with how people condemn violence but excuse rape shows an ingrained misunderstanding of the trauma of sexual violence.

The picture shown here shows the true horror of rape that is unseen in the advertisements that glamourise sexual violence. If images like this were more widely circulated, would it combat the perpetration of rape culture caused by normalising and sexualising advertising imagery?

Why are images like this not widely circulated, while violent images of murder and torture are?

Is it sexual element of rape that stops society from talking about it?

Also, with the potential for desensitisation to shocking imagery, would showing these kinds of photographs be positive or negative on society and it’s opinions/ understanding of rape?