Steubenville: How You Can Help Jane Doe

5 years ago

From the moment the Steubenville story broke, thousands of supporters asked Jane Doe, the 16-year-old victim at the center of the horrible case, What can I do to help? Many of you on BlogHer asked, too. Yesterday she answered us with an astonishingly selfless request: she asked that we donate to an emergency shelter for battered women and children in her West Virginia county.

Image: © Ben Cawthra/London News Pictures/

The shelter is called Madden House, and it serves primarily low-income, African-American women and their kids. Jane Doe actually began donating to the charity money back in January, when people began sending her money to pay her legal fees. She didn’t need the money because her attorney, Bob Fitzsimmons, took her case pro bono. So this was her response instead: to help other victims.

After what was done to her. After what she’s been through.

How can she be so forgiving?

And how can her parents be so good and kind after enduring what they did, and watching their daughter’s suffering?

This story in a local West Virginia paper gave the barest hint of that:

The alleged victim's mother testified at a preliminary hearing in November, saying she often hears her daughter crying in her bedroom. The girl lost friends and became a social outcast, her mother said, forcing her to seek counseling.

Just yesterday two teenage girls were arrested in Steubenville after making threats against the victim online.

When is the hatred going to stop?

Yet, here’s what Jane Doe’s mother told CNN about the verdicts: that she hopes they are “the start of a new beginning for my daughter.” And “We hope that from this something good can arise."

That’s why her family asked people to give to the shelter. And because as their lawyer told a West Virginia newspaper this week, they hope that “the attention … can help other people that have been victimized by this type of crime and give them some strength and some assurance that people are there to help them when that happens."

Speaking of strength, there's another way you can support Jane Doe: by telling your own story. One example is this post titled Was It My Fault, by Tracy Morrison -- who was inspired by the Steubenville verdict to share her experience.

Talking about rape and the rape culture, out loud and in social media, can be difficult, even frightening. Nobody knows that better than Alexandria Goddard, the blogger who broke the Steubenville story and brought it to the attention of the national media. Without her digging and persistence, who knows if the case would have been brought? In a post on xoJane this week, she finally told the story of how she uncovered the rape, and the harassment, fury, and threats she faced online when she began exposing the case.

In an exclusive statement for BlogHer, Goddard told us how she kept going even as she was being attacked, and offered some lessons to other bloggers:

In German we call it "dickes fel" -- it translates loosely to having tough skin. I've had some tough situations, and at times didn't know where that inner strength came from -- but I felt as though I needed to continue speaking out and not shut up -- even when sued for it. With regard to advice that I offer to others: Hold your ground, dig in your heels and continue seeking the truth. And always remember: Sunshine is a good disinfectant.

I'll be giving more updates about Jane Doe as news about her becomes available. In the meantime, you can honor her bravery and kindness by giving to Madden House and continuing the conversation.

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