When you cover a case which involves the gang rape of girls as young as 12, you leave us in no doubt what you think of the outcome when you publish a story containing the following:
"Reading Crown Court heard how the soccer players were encouraged by the schoolgirl 'Lolitas'"
Lolitas? Really? You think that's responsible reporting?
"The girls told the men they 16 years old and had sneaked away from a party to be with them after exchanging suggestive text messages..."
"The judge heard that the most active of the two girls, mentioned in five of the six charges, could not have been trusted by the prosecution as a witness.
"She was also being investigated over an unrelated false rape allegation and had a fake age on her Facebook page."
"She said one of the males kept asking her for sex. She was initially reluctant but eventually gave in to his persistence."
"They highlighted the lies of the young girl who took part in most of the sexual activity..."
"They added that the careers of the promising young footballers had been ruined by 'the biggest mistake [of their] lives'."
Is it any wonder that the comments on the story go down the very same route?
"I would say these wayward girls were more at fault than the lads..."
"The prisons are over-crowded as it is. Save the space for genuine criminals not misguided young men like these. It's the girl who instigated all of this who should be punished - not the lads."
"abslutely (sic) that's not rape. the girls were cooperative..."
"It's not rape. But it is slutty behaviour..."
"I think it is absolutely appalling that these boys have been jailed for this. I am female. They were led on and its the girls who should be charged."
"The girls were underage, yes, but claimed to be 16 (and we all know how tarty some young girls can look)..."
It seems that a lot of people haven't heard of statutory rape and that possibly, the Mail hasn't either, considering the story appears to be intent on hammering home just how much these girls are to blame for what happened to them and that it only outcome has been the ruination of men's lives. Whether the girls texted the men or not, whether they were out late at night or not, this state of affairs the Mail seems to have reached where anything is excusable is disgusting and unforgivable.
And there I was thinking that I hadn't seen a 'evil lying woman out to get men' story for a while. The Mail may not have that particular agenda to push at present (I'm sure they'd hoped that plans to grant anonymity to rape defendants wouldn't be scrapped) but you know they're sure as hell going to carry on promoting it anyway. Maybe, like me, they've read the studies and articles discussing the way the media has an incredible influence on public perception of sexual violence and victim blaming. And maybe that's why they do it, even going to the lengths of trying to justify men having sex with 12-year olds because at the end of the day, a rape allegation is usually nothing more than a woman trying to ruin a man's life.
EDIT: more posts worth reading