This week Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, was appointed to examine the evidence in the alleged rapes of Missouri teenagers Daisy Coleman (14 at the time) and Paige Parkhurst (13 at the time). Baker has promised that she will not be influenced by politics or powerful lawmakers, as one of the accused comes from a well-connected family. "I can also assure you that politics, connections will not play a role in our review in this case," Baker is quoted as saying by NBC.
With Baker's examination of the case and some kind of legal movement actually happening, people are again comparing the case to Steubenville. "Maybe Maryville Will Be Different From Steubenville. Here's Hoping," writes Jezebel's Katie Dries. Dries wonders if the community of Maryville will treat this girl different than Jane Doe was treated in Steubenville. And she is hopeful, because of a recent rally to support the girls. "After Steubenville there were events organized in support of the victim in that case, but they differed from this one, in that they were primarily organized by Anonymous; the Rally for Justice on Tuesday was merely promoted by Anonymous," Dries writes, explaining that the influence of town outsiders was part of the reason "us vs. Steubenville" became one of the stronger narratives in that case.
But there are other important differences (and similarities) between Steubenville and Maryville:
Technically, There Is Still No Rape Case in Maryville
Baker is in the middle of her review, and will have to decide if the case should go to trial. There is a possibility that Baker also finds no wrongdoing, and we will be back to square-one. Steubenville was quite different. The two boys, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were arrested before school started and were already facing charges when the case garnered national attention. (They were later convicted.) In Maryville, the boys involved have so far gone unpunished.
The Social Media
In Jane Doe's case, there was video evidence of the crime and that picture of the boys carrying Jane Doe by her ankles (which was later revealed to be a joke) became inseparable from the case itself. There was video of a boy joking about how "dead" and "raped" Jane Doe was. There were also Twitter messages and deleted videos of the young boys penetrating Doe in the backseat of a car which were shared among students.
In Maryville, Coleman's alleged assault was reportedly taped and was passed around the school. But unlike Stuebenville, there isn't (yet) a reason to believe that social media played as big a role in this case. The element of teens and boys talking about how Doe was "dead" and "raped" put a different tone on Steubenville, and contributed greatly to the public's outrage.
The one thing in common between the girls in Steubenville and Maryville is that they are considered outsiders in their own town. One of the ugly parts of the Steubenville was that there were people who said some pretty gross things to and about the rape victim. "The rape was just an excuse, I think ... She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it." one of Steubenville's 19 football coaches told The New York Times. Those people got a lot of attention, and because of that, there was this sense that all of Steubenville was on the side of its football team. A site called Steubenville Facts, set up by ex-city manager Cathy Davidson (who resigned shortly after the case), was perceived to be more defensive than truth-telling.
These reactions helped set the "us vs. Steubenville" mentality into motion. That's also part of the reason why Anonymous got involved. Anonymous put the spotlight on people who didn't want the attention, and there were people who were unfairly lumped as rape sympathizers when they weren't and they naturally fought back. Anonymous's involvement, as the prosecutor in the Steubenville case will tell you, was a double-edged sword which put plenty of pressure on the victim and the witnesses.
In Maryville, Anonymous is trying a different approach. That group is doing less organizing and more promoting. The Colemans are trying to make sure the message is out there that the town is not a terrible one:
We would just like everyone to know that Maryville is NOT a terrible town. We love so many people there and really were happy there until 1-9-12. Some families there are truly great friends!!! The school was incredible and tried so hard to protect my children.....above and beyond the call of duty. The coaches....even of those boys.....were great and supportive of us. In fact, the wrestling coach and his wife are the best people you could ever know!
That's not to say there weren't some terrible things that happened to the girls in the wake of the alleged attack. Daisy Coleman said she was bullied, not unlike Steubenville's Jane Doe. Unlike Doe though however, the Coleman's house was suspiciously burned down to the ground when they left, as the Kansas City Star reported. And Melinda Coleman, Daisy's mom, also lost her job.
Drawing any direct parallels between the two towns is still very difficult, mostly because the cases have yet to fully play out. In fact, there is still an ongoing 14-person grand jury investigation in Ohio that's still trying to determine if any one covered up, attempted to cover up, or committed additional crimes in the rape of Jane Doe. On Wednesday, authorities announced a second arrest in that continuing investigation. The grand jury has indicted William Rhinaman, a Steubenville High School official, earlier for tampering with evidence and perjury.
With Maryville, we've barely just begun.