Sympathy for Rapists?

It’s OK to have sympathy for rapists.

I know, I know. Sympathy for rapists? How the hell can anyone have sympathy for rapists? Specifically, for Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond, the Steubenville rapists? How can anyone wish anything but a lifetime of suffering upon them? How can you not want their existences to be non-stop misery? How can you not wish pain, death—a painful death—for them both?

I’m not entirely sure.

I think both kids are fucking scum. They scarred a girl forever; scarred her family forever—and got off easy with their relatively light sentences. Were my daughter the victim, I would likely walk to the Mays’ household with a sharp knife and awful intentions. I can’t even imagine … I can’t.

However, I do believe one need not feel guilty for, well, hurting for the two culprits and their families. Until a few months ago, these were kids with lives in front of them; with possibilities; with hopes; with aspirations. They were going to make something of themselves—or at least try. College. Jobs. Families. Vacations. Their parents were, likely, proud. Sons graduating high school; diplomas, caps and gowns.


It’s all over. In ruining a young woman’s life, these two creatures ruined their own lives, too. Though the boys will only spend limited time in detention, they are—forever—rapists. They’re registered sex offenders until death. That’ll be on their resumes; on their police records. When potential employers Google their names, they’ll find RAPIST first, 10th, 100th, 1,000th. As they should. (I’m not even remotely implying this comes close to what the destroyed young woman must live with. It’s not even in the same stratosphere)

Lastly, it’s important that we not overlook a major factor here: The nonsense, bullshit big-man-on-campus football culture that exists across America. I remember when I was in high school and the meathead quarterbacks and halfbacks and defensive linemen strutted the halls like kings. Girls wore their jerseys, guys bought them beer and weed, faculty members looked the other way. I thought it was inane when I was 18, watching jealously from the side, and I think it’s inane, now. It cultivates and breeds something ugly; a group-think, machismo mentality that reduces women to objects.


9 thoughts on “Sympathy for Rapists?”

  1. They had hopes and aspirations and possibilities — and thank god they’ll never be realized. Feel for the parent? Who produced children so ethically skewed that they reverted to primitivism worthy of fundamentalists who stone women who have been raped to death? I cannot feel anything for anyone who ever did anything which led to their actions. And I want the coach tried.

  2. I think it’s possible to hate what they did with a burning-white intensity, and yet to recognize that these guys WILL be out of prison relatively soon, and to also recognize that there’s two ways we can treat them (or anyone in a similar situation): We can treat them like filth, which certainly gives us a visceral satisfaction, but does not really effect any sort of positive change in them. Alternatively, we can treat them as if they are not yet all the way lost, as if they have the potential to do *something* positive, even if it will never come close to making full amends.

    Check out the story of Maria Goretti, who was stabbed to death by Alessandro Serenelli during an attempted rape:

    Serenelli was visited by a bishop while in prison and repented; he later begged Maria’s mother for forgiveness, which she gave him. He was present at Maria’s beatification and eventually joined a monastery and did menial work for them.

    Obviously, none of what Serenelli did was able to back the girl he killed … but I wonder what might have happened if that bishop had not visited him.

  3. I think it would be a mistake to demonize these boys. I am not sympathetic to them or their current plight. Their actions deserve the punishment. But I don’t think they are predators. And there were a lot of other people involved who did not intervene. Sadly their actions are pretty common in many varying degrees in high school/college culture, not purely football culture. The main reason that they were able to be prosecuted is the extent of social media as evidence.
    The sad part is to realize that it could very easily have been your son involved in some way, no matter how sweet, kind and empathic they are.
    And I say this as a former high school girl and a parent of a teenage boy.

    1. I’m sure Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowly would appreciate your comments. Not to mention all the rape enablers.

      The fact is you really have no sympathy for rape victims, especially when the perps happen to be popular school athletes. No wonder I’ve never been a fan!

  4. I put this in the category of dumb kids.
    Don’t get me wrong they got off easy and deserved much more, I just understand it.
    I had 2 boys and 2 girls. My home was often a gathering place for their friends. I also have a memory.
    I noticed that when girls hit 12 they often have mood swings, boys are stupid.
    While girls will get over the hormonal issues fairly quickly we tend to start our stupidity sooner and it usually lasts until we are about 30…though I remember throwing my rotator cuff across a river when I was 54 but thought I was in my 20s.
    Generally a males stupidity results in broken bones and stitches because we think we are Superman and can fly. Or our bike can do back-flips after watching the X Games.
    For most of us our stupidity is generally self inflicted. Unfortunately for some it leads to drugs or alcohol abuse or, as in this case, crimes against others.
    Yes, women drink and do stupid things too. Some men never seem to be anything other than an observer in a world of stupidity, I only am looking at generalizations.
    These kids were stupid, really stupid, and hopefully they will be able to learn from it.
    The sentence is too short, hopefully the lesson is not.

  5. Not being charged as an adult was a joke
    They will return to their friends as hero’s and misunderstood
    The coach is nothing but another Joe Paterno and needs to resign
    Roger McGuire

  6. Very well written Jeff, it’s good to see that even sports writers can understand the problems amongst the stereotypical behavior some athletes get away with when they forget why the became an athlete to begin with.

Leave a Reply