For those of you unfamiliar with the Steubenville, Ohio teen rape case, here is what happened. After an alcohol infused night of partying with the Steubenville, Ohio high school football team, an unconscious young teen girl, passed out drunk, was digitally raped, photographed nude, urinated on and otherwise humiliated by scores of teens and was left naked on a basement floor. A record of tweets and pictures taken during the night,and confiscated by the police identified two boys from the football team as the main perpetrators. The case was brought to trial. The girl chose to testify, and yesterday the two boys were convicted as juveniles of rape.
This story has been written about and commentated by every news organization imaginable, and this story is a must read for all parents of teens, and their teens. As ugly and disgusting as this story is to read about, and write about, you must read about and talk about it with your teens. How else can we teach them about sexual safety, and respect, and empathy, then through example. Unfortunately, this is an example of the dark underbelly of teen behavior.
This story began with a party hosted by the teams assistant coach, where alcohol was provided. The young girl was so drunk at this party that she ran outside to vomit, and when her friends tried to help her, she struck out in a drunken haze and the friends retreated, leaving her to her own devices. This girl was taken by some of the boys to another party where her evening of hell began. She has no memory of anything.
Many teens were witness to the rape and humiliation of this girl. Entertained by this side show, the "audience" of teens took pictures and videos, and tweeted gaily about the fun of abusing an almost dead girl. Their words, not mine. Not one person, male or female, stepped in to stop this.
Why why why did no one help?? Here is where the teaching begins.
First, parents please talk to your girls and your boys about what happens when you drink so much that you pass out and lose your memory. Boys do the unthinkable, become abusive and aggressive towards the girls. Why??Because they are not in their right minds, literally. When inhibitions are down, primal adolescent sexual urges take over. And combined with their own fantasies and the images of the porn boys now watch., which is mostly about the degradation of women, they feel free to act out what they feel and what they have been watching on their tiny little screens. Girls, do the unthinkable when they binge drink. They become immune to their ability to set limits and say no to things in their right mind they would never consent too. This is dangerous stuff. It is your job to help them see this.
Where were their friends, why did no one stop this insanity? Humiliation becomes the entertainment of the night. It would take an incredibility strong and confident teen to stand up to their friends. And unfortunately, most teens don't see an alternative plan, and choose to stay quiet. This is where you can help. They need a game plan that allows them to get help while saving face. Yes saving face is a reality. Most teens feel way too vulnerable to take a public stand. But here are some things you can coach them to do in a situation that feels dangerous:
1. Have them text you, and you can make the calls to the police anonymously.
2. Have them gather kids they feel comfortable with and try to change the situation as a group.
3. Have your teens take turns being safety buddies. Just like buddies in the pool at camp, have set times where you check in with your buddy. If anyone is in an unsafe situation, get other friends to help or have your teen text you.
4. You are the safety net. Make sure your teen knows that you will always be available to help them help a friend. If this girl had had this arrangement, someone could have stopped it. Teens are often afraid of getting a parent involved for fear of retribution from their friends. Help them to understand that the guilt they will feel if a friend gets in serious trouble and they do nothing, will be way worse than getting them help.
This is very tough stuff. These were good kids, good students, good friends. But in an alcohol infused environment, with absolutely no adult supervision (remember the asst coach provided the alcohol) anything can and does happen. This is an extreme, but I have talked with many parents who have stories of their kids who have ended up in an emergency room having their stomach pumped, or girls who have been date raped.
This conversation needs to happen with compassion, and understanding, not judgement and threats. Your kids need you!