Serena Apologizes for Controversial Remarks About Steubenville Case

Published On June 19, 2013 | By Sarah Kirkpatrick

Tennis star Serena Williams has released a statement apologizing for some controversial remarks she made to Rolling Stone regarding the 16-year-old victim of the Steubenville sexual assault case, in which two high school football players were arrested and convicted.

“Do you think it was fair, what they got?” Williams originally told Rolling Stone. “They did something stupid, but I don’t know. 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. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

Well then.

Williams received tons of backlash for her comments, and on Wednesday, Williams apologized in a statement to Good Morning America.

“I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article,” Williams said. “What was written — what I supposedly said — is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved — that of the rape victim and of the accused.

“I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields — anything I could do to support women I have done,” she added. “My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent 16 year old child.”

There’s still quite a bit of an issue with this.

First of all, “especially to an innocent 16-year-old child?” No one deserves to be raped regardless of age, background or level of innocence.

And that “what I supposedly said” — that suggests a lack of ownership for her comments in the first place.

I certainly don’t doubt that one bit Ms. Williams has indeed fought her entire career for women’s equality. She is a role model to many young women everywhere and has proven that women can be incredible athletes and strong people.

But comments like these make her lose a lot of credibility as a role model. Williams needs more than a run-of-the-mill apology if she wants to be taken seriously. Whether that’s through a verbal apology or donating to charities that support rape victims, it doesn’t matter — it just needs to be a lot more authentic.

When one of the most inspirational women in the world promotes misogyny and victim-blaming, it says not just a lot about her, but a lot about the society we live in. We still live in a world where it’s “okay” to ask what the victim was wearing or what he or she was doing. Our society teaches us as women to take responsibility for our actions so that we “don’t get raped,” but we don’t teach people to stop raping. It’s a convoluted system, and it’s not just Serena Williams who has fallen to this. It’s everywhere.

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About The Author

Sarah is a Seattle native studying journalism at Boston University. She covers track and field, cross country and women’s hockey and is Sports Editor at The Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kirkpatrick_SJ.