Serena Williams' comments appeared in an interview with Rolling Stone (Reuters)
Serena Williams' comments appeared in an interview with Rolling Stone (Reuters)

Tennis star Serena Williams has sparked outrage following her comments about the 16-year-old victim of the Steubenville rape case.

Williams, 31, was being interviewed for Rolling Stone magazine when she was quoted as saying the victim "shouldn't have put herself in that position" and suggesting that maybe the teenager wasn't a virgin before she was raped by the two high school footballers.

In a case which received huge publicity over suggestions of a cover-up and suggestions that more people should have been convicted, Ma'lik Richmond, 16, and Trenton Mays, 17 were found guilty of raping the girl at a house party in the small Ohio town.

During the feature with the 16-time Grand Slam title winner, Williams asked if the sentence handed down to the two teenagers "was fair".

She added: "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."

After the interview in Rolling Stone was published, Williams' comments were condemned.

Karen Willis, executive of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, told Perthnow: "Those boys zoned in on a vulnerable girl and to suggest anything otherwise is irresponsible.

"What they did was appalling and sadly, Ms Williams isn't alone in her view that drinking or being drunk exposes the victim to violent behaviour.

"Unfortunately that's one of the reasons why sexual assault continues to be perpetrated and go unreported."

Williams' comments were also heavily criticised on social networks, with users describing the comments as "stupid" and insensitive.

Following the conviction of Richmond and Mays, US news network CNN was also criticised for its sympathetic coverage towards the teenagers and not the victim.

In an exchange between news anchor Candy Crowley and reporter Poppy Harlow during CNN's State of the Union, Harlow discussed how the pair's conviction had ruined their "promising futures" and watched their tearful breakdown as their world "fell apart".

"I've never experienced anything like it," she told Crowley. "It was incredibly emotional - incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures - star football players, very good students - watched as their life fell apart."

CNN reporters were accused of being "rape apologists" for their coverage of the trial.