Today I read that 17 year old, Trent Mays and 16 year old Ma'lik Richmond were found guilty of raping a 16 year old drunk girl in Steubenville Ohio. Each boy was sentenced to the minimum sentence of one year in a youth facility. Mays was given an additional year for transmitting nude photos. For a few minutes as I looked over the photos of the sobbing boys I felt something that felt like sadness for the rapists. I realize that their victim will live with the disgusting way that she was violated for the rest of her life but these boys who brazenly carried out the revolting acts of abuse against an unconscious girl were victims too. They were victims of a society that demonstrates that such abuses go unpunished, a society that teaches young men that humiliating women is funny, that drunk girls are fair prey and that if you are an athlete there are coaches, school administrators and even entire towns that will rally behind you.
The details of the rape shared by the media offer me the perception that those boys carried out their crimes like little demigods, completely unafraid of any consequences even as photos and videos were taken and put on the internet. They stood before the court and tearfully made apologies to the victim, their parents and their coaches and I have to ask myself if they are really even capable of fully understanding the depth of the crime they committed against heir victim.
I wonder if after this sentencing, coaches will start having conversations with athletes about gender equality. I wonder if schools will implement zero tolerance policies for student athletes involved in sexual violence. I wonder if mothers and fathers will have conversations with their children about what to do if they see another child drinking, vomiting and vulnerable. I wonder if parents will start conversations about sex, rape and respect. I wonder if ministers and youth leaders will recognize their responsibility to talk to kids about the relationship between religion and equality. I wonder if people will realize that rape jokes, and stories that demean women lead young men like Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond to a lifetime on the sex offender registry. I know that no one wants to bear this responsibility but the truth is that Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond didn’t get where they did on their own, a lot of people helped them get there. The question is,"Who is going to protect other kids from the same fate?". Are you?