I started to write a post about something else but every time I put my fingers to the keyboard all I could think about was this post I read through a Facebook update:
I clicked on the links. I watched the videos. I felt sick that a girl went to a party and drank too much, like most of us have done at some point, and ended up the victim of a heinous sexual assault and then, shockingly, became the butt of everyone's joke. They nicknamed her "the dead girl" like somehow this made treating her like scum hilarious instead of so hideous it made me cringe. How did this happen?
I was aghast that these teenage boys, these "good" boys, the school Stars, were so cocky, obviously knowing that their actions would not be challenged by their friends. That they were invincible and untouchable within their peer group is clear. They dragged this girl from party to party unconscious and assaulted her multiple times in front of others. How do we live in a world where this can happen? Where none of the other kids challenged them? Where no one called the police or, even, called their parents? How do we live in a world where a group of boys think treating another human being like this is not only OK but fun and entertaining and cool?
I posted a link on Facebook to an article about the trial and someone asked, "How on earth can this happen?" Another responded, "So many things -- objectification of women, commodification of sex... there are so many reasons. But we seem to always want to find "reasons" for bad behavior. And reasons seem to be more and more like excuses. How about just knowing what is right and what is wrong? And then having the moral conviction to stand up for what's right?"
Yes! As a woman, as a mother of a daughter and of a son, yes. We need to help our children not only understand what is wrong because it is against the law but also help them see and know what is wrong because it is wrong. We need them to understand that one's actions and how you treat others reflect who you are and that blaming a victim is cowardly.
Our children need to know that standing up to save someone is admirable and not doing so is shameful. We need to raise our children to understand that covering for a friend when a friend has done something horrible makes them as guilty and their actions as vile but that stepping in to stop a friend from doing something terrible or turning them in when they do it is heroic and NOT the opposite. That friends who victimize someone who is helpless should pay for their actions and that exploiting another person's vulnerability is one of the most horrendous crimes of all.
But you see, at the core of what I am feeling is sadness. A deep sadness because what struck me most about this story was that there was a familiarity in these characters. As I read about these boys I felt a growing sense of panic because their sense of entitlement rung true. I have known guys like this and I see some boys my son's age or I hear about them and the attitude and arrogance is no different from what I saw in the video or heard about in the accounts of what happened. These boys are gifted athletes, they are risk takers, they are on top of the world and their parents believe it too. They are The Stars, The Future, The Best of The Best and they know it.
They are untouchable.
For the most part these boys grow up to be successful adult men. Some remain arrogant and others grow out of it. But what I see in this story, what I truly fear the most, is that, under different circumstances, these boys may do the same thing that happened in Steubenville and feel the same way about it.
Because what I know is that the issue here is not unique to Steubenville. This issue is pervasive. We are putting these teenage boys on pedestals and hero worshipping and allowing this skewed image to alter how society views them and, ultimately, how they view themselves. This is a societal issue that needs to be addressed by every mother and father and coach and teacher in order for it to change.
I spoke to my son about this tonight, will you?