Steubenville Defense: No “No” Means “Yes”

As a trial nears in the Steubenville rape case, defense attorneys are telegraphing their strategy to earn an acquittal. Sure, they say, the victim in the case was allegedly incoherent, possibly drugged, and at times completely unconscious. But she never said no.

Defense attorneys said that the 16-year-old girl, who was allegedly repeatedly raped by Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond in a series of different locations over the course of an evening in August of 2012, essentially made her decision to consent to sex when she went off drunk with Mays and Richmond.

“Defense attorneys believe the girl, who lived across the river in Weirton, W.Va., made a decision to excessively drink and — against her friends’ wishes — to leave with the boys,” reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They assert that she consented to sex.”

Walter Madison, the defense attorney representing Richmond, has said that there is “an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices.” He adds, “She didn’t affirmatively say no.”

To be blunt, this is a paleolithic understanding of consent. Witnesses have said that they “couldn’t make out the words that she was saying,” that she was “not quite passed out but she was not OK,” and that she “wasn’t there to say yes or no.” One student caught on a viral video described the girl as “dead” and “so raped.”

Most decent human beings would see that as clear-cut evidence that the girl was simply not in any condition to consent or not — and Ohio law is very clear that someone has been raped if they are unable to consent due to impairment from controlled substances.

It is easy, with all the internet buzz surrounding the Steubenville case, to look askance on Steubenville itself. That would be unfortunate, because in truth, Steubenville is notable not because it is unique, but because it is so typical. Now another far-too-familiar milestone has been hit in this case: the point at which defense attorneys start claiming that the victim was asking for it, because she dared to get drunk and hang out with boys. What did she think would happen? Clearly, she was okay with being paraded around like a sex toy while football players fondled her in public.

If this latest horror does any good, perhaps it will remind people that “no means no” only goes so far. If your partner has not explicitly said no, that does not mean that they are not objecting, and therefore, that they’re okay with things. Unless your partner has said yes — clearly and with a reasonably clear head — then the no must be assumed.

As for this case, it seems unlikely that this line of defense will lead to much success; a clear reading of Ohio statutes and the overwhelming video evidence makes it all-but-certain that Mays and Richmond will be ultimately convicted. Still, on the way to trial, defense attorneys are managing to shame and malign the victim one last time, to repeat once more the lie that when a woman dares to drink and hang out with men, she has consented to whatever those men wish to do to her. It is a vicious slander, and it is a re-victimization of the victim. I hope she understands that decent people know she isn’t at fault. She is a victim, and she deserves no blame.


Related Stories

How Can We Raise Boys in a World Where Steubenville Exists?

Ohio Town Defends Football Stars After They Raped Unconscious Woman

4 Easy Ways Schools Can Stop Rape Culture


Image Credit: Thinkstock


Sabrina I.
Past Member 5 years ago


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago


Mark Alan Dellavecchia

As much as Christians, and others, like to bring up the gang-rape Sodom & Gomorrah tale in Genesis 19 as an indictment against homosexuality, (While completely ignoring the ramifications of the "What would have happened if the men of the towns had accepted and raped Lot's daughters?" question.) they do so while ignoring the parallel heterosexual gang-rape scenario in Judges 19 & 20 in which a Levite turns his concubine over to the "wicked men of the city (Gibeah)" who rape and abuse her until morning when she dies of her inflicted injuries. In the first story, God destroys the cities for their wickedness. In the second, the eleven tribes of Israel decimates the tribe of Benjamin for its wickedness.

GOD DOES NOT CONDONE GANG-RAPE CULTURE, and neither does His true followers who place morality before football.

In both of the Biblical scenarios, the societies and cultures had become so corrupted and accepting of Rape Culture, "Divine Intervention" was required. Judging by Steubenville and here, and the youth society and culture's use of social media to glorify gang-rape shows a similar level of moral decadence and corruption. It will not be homosexuality (The Gay Agenda) per se that leads to America's downfall: it will be the lack of conscience and morality in the succeeding generation.

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man (culture/society) reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7

Ewelina Grobelna
Ewelina Grobelna6 years ago

RAPE should not have any right for defence!!! going with someone anywhere drunk or not drunk DOES NOT mean agreement for sex!!!!

Moira P.
Moira P6 years ago

"No" meaning "Yes" is how the animal kingdom works. If a gazelle runs from a tiger it will give chase! The Human Race is supposed to be a higher, cognitive species! I don't even think a tiger would be interested in a gazelle lying unconscious! These guys really must be a sub-species!

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

Laywers? how sad that would go that low to defend a rapist.

Sandra Dahms
Sandra D6 years ago

This is the last opportunity that the parents of these boys had to teach them a valuable lesson and they blew it on the advise of a couple of lawyers only concerned with a win! Stupid and irresponsible of them. It would have served these boys better to admit the truth and deal with the consequences of what they had done rather than try a sneaky, stupid underhanded way to get out of trouble. What has this taught them?

lee e.
lee e6 years ago

These a-holes got less than they deserved -- it's time to call it quits in protecting the GD Jock -empire -- they and their coach ought to be put in jail and the keys thrown away -- that girl - was impaired - and the guys took advantage - not only that but were treating her in a way that I've only witnessed cerain detainees at Abu Graib were treated - and if that is their only means of learning respect, then they deserve like treatment in prison - hope their asses are prime for what should be awaiting them!

Robert H.
Robert Hamm6 years ago

They have been convicted of rape. Haven't heard sentencing yet.

Leia P.
Leia P.6 years ago