COLUMBUS -- The National Organization for Women and like-minded groups delivered thousands of petition signatures to Attorney General Mike DeWine Monday, hoping to convince the state's top law enforcement official to pursue criminal charges against other teens potentially involved in a Steubenville rape case.
Jacqueline Hillyer, president of the Ohio chapter of NOW, and a dozen or so protesters focused many of their comments on a video of an 18-year-old commenting on the incident, saying that individual and others should have done something to stop the incident or report it to law enforcement.
"Clearly he knew what was going on," Hillyer said. "He was joking about it. That's bad enough, but the fact [is] he did nothing to intervene. ... There's just something wrong with the culture that commits and allows that and considers it part of high school sports."
But the petitioners also want DeWine and others to make an example of those involved in the Steubenville case, with hopes of changing what Hillyer called the "rape culture surrounding male athletic groupings."
"Teen-agers are not getting the message that they need to respect women and that this is not a joke," she said. "It's not a boy thing, it's not another notch on their belt. Somebody of character has to step in."
The rape case and video have garnered national attention, with two high school football players set to go to trial later this month.
DeWine said he will announce any additional charges against other individuals in the case after the legal proceedings are complete.
"We are in the later stages of our overall investigation where we not only are looking at what happened at that incident itself but anything that may have happened afterwards," DeWine told reporters Monday.
Hillyer and protesters met with DeWine for about half an hour Monday.
"The worst thing about this crime in Steubenville -- and it was a crime -- is not that it was so ugly and horrible and disgusting, but they were so ordinary," Hillyer said. "It happens all the time across the state, across the country in high schools, and people don't intervene ... What we're asking you to do is be at the forefront, be a leader, in beginning to change the culture of rape in Ohio."
"Our interest is making sure that justice is done," DeWine told Hillyer and others who gathered in his office. "And that's what we intend to do, and we take this very, very seriously."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.