The verdict is in but the story about the two Steubenville high football players convicted of raping a West Virginia teen girl continues to make headlines. More recently two high school football players in Torrington, Conn., were charged with assaulting a 13-year-old girl, and the alleged victim has been menaced on social media as a ‘snitch,’ according to a report.
As a mother of two young sons, I cannot imagine what was going on in the lives of the football players to make them treat a women or girl in this manner. As a woman, a daughter, an aunt, a sister and friend to women with daughters, I’m equally curious as to how an underage girl could be put in this situation. I don’t understand the alcohol consumption, I don’t understand a teen party with no adult supervision, and I don’t understand why there’s no curfew for these kids who were out all night.
As a victim, my heart continues to break because I know the life-long ramifications of sexual assault.
There are no easy answers to a story as complicated and tragic as the Steubenville case. Everything about it outrages and saddens me. The out-of-control underage drinking. The fact that dozens of people witnessed what was going on and NO ONE did anything to stop it. The social media aspect. The lack of friends who would step in and help the victim (some of her “friends” even testified for the defense…) and what seems to be a massive cover-up to protect two stars of the storied football team.
Where were all the people that were supposed to look out for these young people and navigate them through the trials and tribulations of the teenage years? Teachers, coaches, parents, neighbors, pastors, etc.?
Even though this isn’t my world, it is the world for a lot more people than I’d like to imagine. The selfish answer is for me to worry about only what’s mine, to make sure that my sons are always at chaperoned events and that I have face-to-face meetings in advance with any adults that are supervising them. I can also continue to demand that they respect all people, but women in particular. I can take them to church and make certain that they’re spiritually and morally grounded.
I can judge the parents of the teens involved and wonder why they haven’t done the job that I might have done.
Or, I can realize that I can’t control every aspect of our lives, that there will be times when even the best of moms can’t nail down the exact locations of our kids. They can leave home with some one trusted and end up visiting someone who makes you raise an eyebrow. They can be minding their own business and become the target of someone who just doesn’t like the way they’re dressed or the way their hair is cut. They can be with family members or friends who flip out or they themselves can have a lack of good judgment that could lead to the unthinkable, just as it did for the teens who may have to be listed as registered sex offenders for life.
All children need to be taught that there are boundaries and where exactly those boundaries lie. If we’re only teaching our kids the rules, it doesn’t help so much when the kid with a whole different set of values shows up.
So instead of looking down at families who find themselves in the kind of peril these teenagers are in, how about looking outward and trying to have a positive influence on as many young people as we can. It happens through mentoring and all of us have a chance to take part in all kinds of ways. There are children who have to look much too far to find someone worth emulating, too many boys who need a male to explain how girls and women should be treated and too many girls who need a female to explain what kind of treatment is unacceptable. We can’t solve all the problems of the world but I know for a fact that making a difference in one small way can change someone’s life.
If you’re part of a mentoring program shout it out or if you’ve been mentored by someone who has a positive impact on your life, let’s celebrate them right here. We have to stop talking about the village it takes to raise a child and start creating that village before it’s too late.