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Cathy Reisenwitz Headshot

Brad Pitt's Steubenville Film Will Help Fight Rape Culture

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None other than Brad Pitt is bringing the story of Steubenville, Ohio to the silver screen. It's difficult to believe that anyone would deny the existence of rape culture after this story hit the national stage. But telling it is exactly what we need to fight the rampant ignorance and victim-blaming still too common in American life.

Not long ago, a young girl was gang raped at a party while passed out drunk. Video of the assault was circulated in social media, and the victim was intimidated and harassed online and off. Adults at her high school, after learning of the assault, actively participated in the cover-up, and police refused to investigate.

It wasn't until several online justice-seekers, including a hacker associated with anonymous and a social justice blogger, refused to let the matter rest that it became national news, and justice was served. Sort of. While the two convicted rapists served one year in jail, the hacker who exposed the rape and cover-up faces more jail time than the convicted rapist, up to ten years if convicted.

It's unfortunate that we live in a culture more interested in protecting the view that "our boys" don't rape than in protecting victims. When polled, people consistently estimate that 30-40 percent of rape victims are lying. The actual percentage is in the single digits. Writer after writer decries the lack of due process afforded those falsely accused, blaming "rape hysteria" even though the actual hysteria is clearly over false reports. The reality is that most rapes are never reported at all, due in part to the mistreatment victims receive from police and from their communities.

To change the culture, we need a clear look into how rape is handled across thousands and thousands of communities across the U.S. Most victims won't have video proof, and anonymous to advocate for them. But bringing this story to life will do tremendous good for making victims' experiences real for ordinary Americans. I'm super excited by what Brad Pitt is doing here, and cannot wait to watch the film.