State director: Serena’s comments typical

STEUBENVILLE — The statewide director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence said this morning comments made by tennis star Serena Williams are typical in today’s culture where blame is often placed on victims of sexual assault.

Williams was interviewed by a Rolling Stone magazine writer in March when the trial was taking place for two teens who had been charged in an August rape of a 16-year-old Weirton teen.

Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent of rape following a trial in March before visiting Judge Thomas Lipps. Mays also was found delinquent of possessing a naked picture of the victim and sending it to others on his cell phone.

Williams said during the interview that, while not blaming the victim in the Steubenville rape case, “she shouldn’t have put herself in that position.”

The comment was made in one paragraph of a lengthy story posted online Tuesday about Williams, a 16-time Grand Slam title winner who is ranked No. 1 heading into Wimbledon, which starts next week.

Katie Hanna of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence said the attitude still exists today that it is appropriate to place blame on the victim of a rape or sexual assault.

“We need to keep the focus on the perpetrators. It is a crime. She wasn’t responsible for what happened,” Hanna said.

Hanna said the victim was drinking and it is wrong to place the blame on her.

“You can’t continue to place blame on the victim for a crime committed against her,” Hanna said.

She said more education needs to be done to show support for victims of sexual assault. Without that, it will be difficult for the victims to come forward, she added.

According to the Rolling Stone story, Williams said the perpetrators of the crime “did something stupid,” and she asks: “Do you think it was fair, what they got?”

She adds, “I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people.”

Williams also is quoted as saying: “… she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

Williams is in England preparing for Wimbledon. Her agent, who also is in England, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.