An Ohio judge on Sunday found two Steubenville teens guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, but for local survivors of sexual violence, the case deserves more than just the clack of a gavel - it deserves a call to action.
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center is gearing up for its annual Walk for Change, an event that Boston-area rape survivors say raises awareness about the circle of silence that surrounds sexual crimes.
"People blame a million things (for rape); the victims, football, social media. They think it would never happen here, that it was just an isolated incident, but it happens everywhere," said Julie, a Boston-area rape survivor. "The fact so many bystanders not only sat back and watched this happen, but promoted it by tweeting videos and photos is so vile, and kind of incomprehensible. It brings up questions about the culture we have and why that would ever happen."
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, were both sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail after raping the inebriated victim and posting images from the crime on social media. They were ordered not to contact the victim until they are 21, and are required to register as juvenile sex offenders.
"For every story that is sensationalized in the media like the Steubenville rape, there are hundreds of thousands of stories among us every day," said Sarah Beaulieu, also a survivor of sexual violence and founder of The Enliven Project. "When I look at what happened there I think about what happened to me, and what has happened to so many other women, and men. The chain of silence around sexual violence is so intense."
Beaulieu described the walk as an easy way for the community to support victims of sexual abuse.
"When I walk, as a survivor, I feel supported and hope that the silence will be broken," she said.
BARRC's executive director Gina Scaramella said she believes the Boston-area needs to do "the same work as is needed in Ohio."
“We need to work as families on these issues, and as a community. As a parent, I have always tried to send my own children these two messages: they have a right to control their own body, and so does everybody else. The Walk for Change is our chance as an entire community to publicly declare our values,” Scaramella said.
The 8th Annual Walk for Change will be held on April 7 at Canal Park in Cambridge. It costs $25 to participate. Proceeds help fund BARCC’s free services. Those interested in walking can register here.