It’s not my favorite subject, and I’m willing to bet it’s not yours either. The last time I brought up rape was in response to a case in India (see Cloudy Skies 12/29/12). This time, it’s closer to home.
In our nation’s 17th state, not too long ago, an all-too-familiar scene played out. An evening of excessive imbibing led two teenage boys and one teenage girl into a series of events that have made irreversible changes to all three lives. The specifics are lengthy and documented thanks to the wide scope of portable technology and social media. There was a widely circulated photo of the two boys (17 and 16 years old) holding the undressed girl over a basement floor, taken before both penetrated the girl with their fingers.
There is a video, still available for the strong-stomached to watch on youtube, of one of the perpetrators discussing the events. He repeatedly refers to the girl as dead. “She’s deader than OJ’s wife,” is one reference. He recounts how he knows she’s so dead, because the other perpetrator urinated on her and she didn’t wake up. The 12 minute video is appalling, but it’s also life. This is how our society views the relationship between men, women and alcohol. Oops. Mistakes happen.
A particularly disgusting aspect of this case was the response of national news giant CNN (among others), upon hearing the verdict. The two boys were sentenced to one year and two years respectively in juvenile detention. The six or so minutes that CNN correspondents Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow spent discussing the breaking news of the verdict (along with analysis from legal contributor Paul Callan), were largely an homage to the destroyed lives of . . . the rapists.
I agree that it is a damn shame that these “promising” young men will now be marked as sex offenders for life. However, they are sex offenders. In the CNN newscast, Callan says “Scenes like this happen all the time,” in reference to the conviction of young men, and their emotional responses.
This is the point, CNN.
Scenes like this happen all the time. This one happens to have received national attention. Crowley asks in the report, “What’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men, being found guilty in juvenile court of . . . rape, essentially.”
Candy, please. Let’s try this one instead. What would have been the lasting effect, on every teenage girl in the country if they had not been found guilty. This would send the message that, although rape isn’t such a great idea, if you’re a drunk teenager, it’s no big deal. This seems to be the message that is already prevalent in U.S. high schools. We blame the girl for being slutty or drunk. Still. It doesn’t matter who the victim is. If there is no consent, it’s a crime. No loopholes. No second chances.
This case has the potential to spearhead a new discussion, focused on education and re-education: a re-evaluation of accepted behavior. The women who pushed the second-wave feminist movement in the 60s have expressed a certain chagrin with the new generation of females that seem to think the work is done. Every time a sexual assault occurs (28 times an hour in the U.S.), we are reminded that the work is far from done.
Two teenage girls from the hometown of the convicted young men reportedly threatened the victim after the verdict was announced. The same victim that didn’t want to press charges (her parents made the decision). The culture of silencing continues. These girls have been charged with menacing. The parents of the victim now don’t want any more people charged, but the damage is done.
Time for a metaphor. Can we take these shattered pieces, organize them and reform them. A mosaic of stained glass, rearranged, turned around. We’ve done it before, after all.