'Roll Red Roll' by Nancy Schwartzman examines the high-profile 2012 high-school rape case

By Laura Barcella
March 22, 2019 01:01 PM

“I wanted to make a film about sexual assault that doesn’t put the burden on victims,” says Nancy Schwartzman, the director of Roll Red Roll, a new documentary that revisits the shocking high-school rape case that shook the town of Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. “So often in our culture the burden hinges on the victim. She has to come forward, give her name, and then we decide whether we believe her or not.”

Thanks to the breadth of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, everyday Americans are becoming more aware of the prevalence of sexual violence. And though it’s often women coming forward to share their painful experiences with sexual assault, harassment, and more, Schwartzman claims she did not make Roll Red Roll for them.

In fact, she says, she created the film with men in mind. “This is a tough movie for women. I didn’t design it for them,” Schwartzman says. “I want people to walk away hurt and angry, and turn that into action. I want men and boys to see this movie and say ‘Oh my god, I never want it to get this bad on my team or in my school.’”

Schwartzman’s film, currently in limited release, does a deep — and deeply unsettling — dive into the much publicized 2012 rape of a 16-year-old “Jane Doe” by members of the revered Steubenville Big Red high school football team.

WATCH: Documentary Revisits 2012 High School Football Rape: ‘I Want People to Walk Away Hurt and Angry’

The crimes occurred at a party, where two young men, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, sexually assaulted the intoxicated victim, who did not remember what happened. Other teenagers snapped an array of horrifying photos and videos of the crime, laughing and joking about what had occurred (“You don’t need any foreplay with a dead girl,” one boy laughed). They later shared these images, plus more quips and commentary about the incident, on social media and in text messages.

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Ohio crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is one of the heroes of both Roll Red Roll and the case itself. After reading a brief newspaper clip immediately after the assault occurred in 2012, Goddard dug into the social media profiles of all the students on the football team, hunting for evidence of who was at the party and who had discussed it afterward.
Ohio crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is one of the heroes of both Roll Red Roll and the case itself. After reading a brief newspaper clip immediately after the assault occurred in 2012, Goddard dug into the social media profiles of all the students on the football team, hunting for evidence of who was at the party and who had discussed it afterward.
Ohio crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is one of the heroes of both Roll Red Roll and the case itself. After reading a brief newspaper clip immediately after the assault occurred in 2012, Goddard dug into the social media profiles of all the students on the football team, hunting for evidence of who was at the party and who had discussed it afterward.
Ohio crime blogger Alexandria Goddard is one of the heroes of both Roll Red Roll and the case itself. After reading a brief newspaper clip immediately after the assault occurred in 2012, Goddard dug into the social media profiles of all the students on the football team, hunting for evidence of who was at the party and who had discussed it afterward.

RELATED: The Steubenville Rapists Face Justice at Last

Goddard uncovered the disturbing behavior of bystanders who had either witnessed or heard about the crime — some of whom were, allegedly, adults — yet had done nothing to flag it. “I admire her so much for the work she did,” Schwartzman says of Goddard. “She knew to look at their social media first. She knew how to find deleted tweets through legal archiving tools. It was an act of courage to stand up to the whole town.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Mays, who was then the football quarterback, and Richmond, the wide receiver, were both convicted of the rape in 2013. Mays, then 17, was sentenced to at least two years in the state juvenile system. Richmond, who was 16, was sentenced to at least one year. Both have since been released.

But the legacy of the notorious assault lives on — both in Steubenville and across the country.

The story, which dominated the national news, incited heated debate about rape culture and the “boys will be boys” ethos that permeates athletics. It’s Schwartzman’s mission to shine a light on that mentality.

“We’re all raised in this callous, violent culture that tells boys, as a norm, that it’s OK to hurt women,” she explains. “It’s everywhere on TV and in pop culture. And the lack of conversation in schools about consent makes for an incredibly dehumanizing climate. If this is what our children are saying and doing, what are we doing wrong?”

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