Many of you will probably remember the recent high profile Stuebenville, Ohio rape case involving high school football players who raped a girl twice while she was drunk, and then plastered their deeds all over social media. Two of the teenage players have been found guilty, but they are still investigating whether or not anyone else was involved, including head football coach Reno Saccoccia — who, by the way, just had his contract renewed.
I would love to say that after the Stuebenville case came to light that we, as a society, began reflecting on the way we treat victims of sexual assault and came to the realization that we are doing a crappy job of supporting and defending them, and doing an even worse job of making sure it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, we still have quite a long way to go. Case in point: Grand Rapids, Mich.
There, a girl was sexually assaulted on school property and reported the incident to school officials, who then told her and her parents that the alleged attacker was a “special ed student, a player, and a school-of-choice student being scouted by universities.” Apparently, if you’re stupid enough and a good enough athlete then you’re excused from being punished for sexual assault. For some reason (though I can’t imagine why…) her parents thought the principle was trying to cover up the attack and they in turn called the police — who also did basically nothing to protect her.
Her classmates took this lack of action as a sign that she was lying about the assault, and began to repeatedly harass her in school and on the Internet. Now she and her parents are suing the school for their failure to appropriately address her situation, and the mother of the athlete accused of the assault is counter suing because this could result in loss of a scholarship for her son — of course, the fact that the victim was forced to quit soccer, cheerleading and marching band, had to stop attending school events and eventually left the school altogether doesn’t matter. Because football is the only thing anyone should care about, obviously.
When are we going to stop blaming the victim for something that he or she has no control over all because of the status of the alleged attacker? I guess that’s the first step, realizing the victim has no control and that there is nothing that would ever mean he or she is asking for it. And frankly, men, if I were you I would also be highly offended by the fact that society views you as being so weak and unintelligent that you physically can’t control your penis and can’t be bothered with understanding what consent is.
I don’t have children, so I’m always hesitant to say too much about parenting and childrearing, but the only way we can combat these issues is by teaching our children what consent is and why it’s important. If we keep sending the message that sexual assault and rape aren’t important, then these things are going to keep happening.
I’ve shared these ads (at left) before, but it’s because I think they’re a great start to a huge problem — they finally teach the assailant what true consent is. Part of the problem is that consent is not always considered as giving a firm “yes”; we think that when someone doesn’t want it they should have to give a firm “no,” otherwise it’s okay. But when you have statistics that show us that 6 out of 10 rapes or sexual assaults are committed by someone that is known to the victim (9 out of 10 when you just look at college campuses) and 1 in 6 women and 1 out of 33 men have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, something is wrong.
It’s time to fix this problem – and it start with schools and parents facing existing issues head on, not shoving it under the rug. The victims in Grand Rapids and Steubenville can be more statistics – blamed and then forgotten about – or they can be impetus for real change. I hope they are the latter.