One of the first phrases I heard in the opening sequence of Roll Red Roll was, “she’s so raped” followed by cynical laughter. This alone is perturbing—although it was a voiceover, it definitely must have been something said by a real person. I’m no feminist, but this voiceover alone set the stage for what was about to come. How can the word rape be used so loosely? And if the alleged rape was real, how could it be made into a laughing matter?
We are then introduced to our victim. Throughout the film, the victim is referred to as Jane Doe, and any mention of her real name is bleeped. Curious about how she was doing in present day, I did some research and found that no sources have given so much as an initial to her real identity. I admire this level of anonymity as it gives Jane Doe the ability to live her life normally without bearing the stigma of a rape victim.
Roll Red Roll addresses the dilemma of whether rape victims should step forward or remain silent. It also sheds light on other rape victims in the same city who were afraid of speaking up. This all changes once Jane Doe’s case blew up following a hack by KnightSec, an offshoot of Anonymous—demanding an apology. As people began to protest for the indictment of the culprits, people began coming forward to share their experiences. It saddens me to see this and made me wonder— with such passiveness, how many many more of such cases go undiscovered? How many cases are buried because of the reluctance to speak up?
Aside from real-life interrogation tapes, the evidence gathered is unlike any other—tweets, Instagram photos, and Youtube videos that were posted by people involved in the crime took centre stage. It was through these footprints left behind by the youths involved that the authorities managed to piece together the crime and ultimately solve it. We have always been told how much personal information can be fished from your social media platforms, and in this case, the social media footprint of the culprits came back to bite them—hard.
We also get a deeper insight to the American jock’s life with the film, and I was alarmed to learn that for this particular high school (and probably many others in the country), the job of disciplining an athlete for his off-field conduct lies solely with their coach. That being the case, it frustrates me to no end at how little the coach did to aid the investigation.
It’s quite apparent that in Steubenville, sports is placed on a higher pedestal than ethics. In fact, some of the news outlets in the town were even victim-blaming to draw attention away from the players. It is a huge contrast from Singaporeans—ruthless and unforgiving—who parade the smallest of “crimes” such as not giving up a reserved seat all over the internet.
Roll Red Roll draws parallels to our student life in Singapore with the “snitches get stitches” mentality that some of these American youths have. I am fairly certain that at some point in our schooling days, all of us have done something we were not supposed to do as well and have asked our friends to not rat us out. But what about in a court of law? How and where would that ‘loyalty’ stand?
Credit—Roll Red Roll Film Website
This docu-film also attempts to educate its viewers on the issue of “consent”. While the legal definition of rape in Ohio is not the same as that in Singapore, both laws agree that if someone is unable to give consent, it is considered rape and crime.
Roll Red Roll was a documentary, but it felt to me like a story. I was with the victim throughout the film—waking up and not knowing anything aside from the fact that I was raped. I was immersed, and I felt a sense of justice at the end of the film. I experienced all those feelings without knowing her name. In this instance, anonymity allows not just reprieve for the victim. It also forces us to confront the demons that allow these perpetrators to walk free and to stop making excuses that blame the victim for the reprehensible actions of men in society.
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