Like everyone else, I have been watching the Steubenville rape trial this week. I am overwhelmed by all the thoughts brought up by this case, all the things I want to teach my kids. There is so much to say, and it is so difficult. Before I start to process, I think this article provides a good outline of the events and all the many things that went wrong.
The rape of the unnamed 16 year old in this case just brings me to tears. The way she was treated was horrendous. And I’m not just talking about the abusers, I’m talking about her peers who forwarded text messages and posted pictures on Facebook. I’m brokenhearted for her, that this happened to her and, even before it happened, that she was in the position that she was at the party. Her rape is inexcusable, there is never an excuse that would make rape okay. But I weep at the mental picture of someone’s baby girl incapacitated like she apparently was the night of the rape.
I’ve read some online commentary asking where the parents were and why these kids were even able to be at parties like this, participating in behavior like this. It seems like a valid question and it is easy to heap blame at the feet of the parents. But I remember being a teen. And I remember the many questionable decisions I made, the activities I participated in that my parents wouldn’t have approved of. Sometimes even the most involved parents are fooled by their children. I know I fooled my parents. And besides that, I’m not sure the parents need any more blame than what they are likely already placing on themselves.
My heart is also broken for the boys who committed the rape. Not because I think it excusable and not because I think they should escape punishment for their actions. But because it is unbelievably sad how bad decisions can ruin your life. And those boys have ruined their lives. Besides the incarceration they now face, they will also be registering as sex offenders for their entire lives. This night of stupidity has ruined their lives. Now I don’t know, maybe this is just the one they got caught for, maybe they had perpetrated this kind of violence on other girls. Certainly they acted with a sense of entitlement that night. Or maybe they were just boys who egged each other on, like toddlers trying to see how high they can jump. That’s the problem with teens, sometimes they make decisions like toddlers but with bodies like adults. Again, they deserve their punishment, but it is still so sad.
So I can’t help but think of my own children. I have a daughter and a son and really my feelings about this are the same for both of them.
- I want them to know that they are not entitled to anything. You may be a football star, that does not mean people owe you their favors. You may be super intelligent, that does not mean your teachers owe you a good grade. You may be beautiful, that does not mean people owe you anything. I want you to earn the respect of the people around you, and that means treating yourself and other people with respect.
- I want them both to know that their bodies are precious. And because of this, they should treat their bodies like they are precious. This means not filling them with mass quantities of alcohol and other substances. This means not using them to sleep around with whoever comes along. That means not driving at unsafe speeds. That means not filling them with worthless junk food.
- I want them to know that other people are precious too. Yes, my children are my precious babies. They always will be. But that girl my son takes out on his first date? She is someone’s precious baby too. The boy my daughter has a crush on? He’s precious too. We should all be treating each other like precious treasures…because that is what we all are.
- I want them to know that one tiny decision can have life-long impact. I want them to think. I want them to stop and consider what their decisions might mean. This is too much to ask, I know. But I hope if I talk to them about it all the time, they might remember my voice when it counts.
- I want them to be courageous, to stand up for what is right and not to be swayed by the voices of their peers. I don’t want them to forward the text or “like” the facebook post just because all their friends do. I want them to be that voice that speaks up and says, “wait, this isn’t right.”
- I want them to know that I love them. Always have, always will. NO MATTER WHAT.