Just Another Small Town Friday Night

23 Mar

Ah, high school, the glory days of your youth.  We have all been there, that feeling of being invincible, like nothing bad will ever happen to you.  unfortunately, a group of teens from a small town in eastern Ohio have found out the hard way that everyone has a kryptonite.

This last week in Steubenville, Ohio the rape trial ended for two of the Big Red football team; a group of boys who it seems were kings in the small mill town near the Ohio River.  Seventeen year old Trent Mays and sixteen year old Ma’lik Richmond were convicted to at least one year in a juvenile correction center with a possibility of having that sentence extended until they are 21 upon the recommendation of state child services, Mays was also sentenced to an additional year for the distribution of child pornography, they must register with the state as sex offenders for the remainder of their long lives.  All of this stemming from the 2012 rape of a sixteen year old West Virginia girl who had come across the river, as it would seem she had done many times in the past, to party with the local teen heroes of the Steubenville High School football team.

0312_Steubenville_screen_grab-592x369The media and people surrounding the case would have you believe that this fateful night in August this young girl fell victim to the unwanted advances of Mays and Richmond after having entirely too much to drink for a 40-year-old man, let alone a sixteen year old girl.  Photos were taken and shared via social media of this girl’s limp body being “carried” by the defendants and witness accounts tell of the girl violently vomiting outside of another players house earlier in the evening before the defendants were seen groping and fondling the girl in the back of a car while another person video taped the incident.  The girl’s mother is quoted as saying “The adults need to take responsibility guide these children” while giving a statement to CNN’s Poppy Harlow and I whole heartedly agree, the only problem with her statement is that she is one of the parents that needs to take some responsibility.

As a rape survivor, I of all people understand what this girl is probably going through.  She has the upside of the alcohol impairment that fogs her memory since she was not even aware that anything was amiss until she started seeing the comments and photos on social media, I on the other hand have a vivid memory of that night, one that took many years to not haunt my dreams at night.  No woman asks to be raped and no man has the right to say to himself or his friends that her words say no but her actions say yes.  No one should ever have to feel violated because of the clothes they wear and the way they walk or talk, the look that they give someone or for just simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

These boys were all old enough to understand right from wrong, old enough to understand that just because she didn’t fight and scream no that she was in no way able to consent to what was happening, old enough to understand that passing around photos of a half-naked or naked teenage girl was not only legally wrong but morally wrong.Their friends that night are guilty of complacency, seeing the events and doing nothing about it, not stopping the boys from assaulting this girl and also of seeing that she was impaired and not calling a sober friend or parent to come take her to safety.  The citizens of Steubenville (and of any number of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of small towns just like it) were guilty of turning a blind eye to the “youthful indiscretions” of the Big Red players and their friends, guilty of providing an atmosphere that encouraged this behavior and enabling them to become the hellions that they had become.  The parents (like so many parents these days) were guilty of failing to see that their job, first and foremost, is that of parent to these children, because, at the end of the day, they are still simply children; they lack the perspective to see the consequences to their actions that an adult has.  They were guilty of mock ignorance, assuming that their “angels” would never do anything wrong.  Guilty of placating their children, allowing them to run amuck and failing to give them structure and a foundation of discipline.  They were all guilty of arrogance, thinking they were above the law, above authority, that this would never happen to them.  Yes, guilt can even be placed at the feet of the victim and her parents here and that , I think, is what frustrates me most about this situation, this “taking responsibility” quote from the victim’s mother.  Why does it simply fall to the boys parents to take responsibility for their actions?  Does she think she is above reproach here?  Where is her responsibility for knowing where her sixteen year old daughter was and not knowing that she was across state lines drunk and incapable of making that call.  This, I think, is the ultimate arrogance of all.

Pride goeth before the fall and there may be more fall to come in this case as the district attorney investigates the loose ends I expect to find a string of people who should all be held accountable for the blatant narcissistic behavior of the fallen heroes and its likely that none of them will have any real justice.  Immunity has already been granted to the witness to the crime, the boys who saw and said nothing.  There is no crime in feigned ignorance and arrogance, at most the stores and bars that supplied the alcohol to the teens may face fines and in the grand scheme of things that is a small triumph in a case where so many were guilty and the lives of a generation were altered in the click of a camera.

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