Typically I try to refrain from giving my opinion when I write, but today is an exception.
Currently, there is heated discussion circulating throughout social media and news media regarding the recent case of the young man convicted of three felonies yet only sentenced to six months in prison. As far as I have read thus far, the only people pleased with this verdict are the young man, his dad, and the judge. I have no idea what his mother or other family members are thinking, however as a parent myself, I am certain their emotions are running the gamut. Yet I do know what the rest of the universe is saying; the outrage is clear.
Disturbing to me is the lack of responsibility this man is taking for his actions. No, the alcohol did not digitally rape this young woman. No, frat culture did not assault this young woman. A clear and conscious choice to sexually gratify himself with an unconscious victim is evidenced by the hidden location of the assault – behind a garbage dumpster.
However, the most disturbing aspect of this, which keeps me up at night, is the support the rapist is receiving from other men – important men in his life – his dad and a representative of the law. It haunts me because it perpetuates the idea that rape is the victim’s fault, not the offender’s. The judge believes the young man did not commit a serious enough crime to ruin the rest of his life and does not feel he is a danger to society, despite the felony conviction. The dad believes his son’s “twenty minutes of action” should not affect the rest of his life. Twenty minutes is a significant amount of time to participate in the assault of an unconscious woman without realizing, within the first few minutes, what you are doing is very, very wrong.
The message being sent is undeniably counter to what we are socially and humanly responsible for teaching all of our children: Respect others.
The two heroic gentleman that came upon this horrific situation should be receiving our attention.
It is time to shift our focus from the asinine verdict that glorifies good ‘ol boys to the young men who, without knowing if the perpetrator was armed, risked their own well-being to protect and assist a fellow human. This is the conversation we need to have with our children. Rather than having the felon’s face on TV, I would prefer to gaze upon the two heroic Swedish men whose lives have also been forever altered by what they witnessed and experienced.
Let us show our youth the faces of upstanding men and women.
Let us show our youth what good character looks like.
Teaching young people respect for humankind needs to begin from the moment they have the ability to understand. Parents and other adults must model appropriate behavior towards others, demonstrate respect for others, and instruct their children in positive communication and relationship skills.
Sexual abuse of women is rampant.
The poignant, moving, heart-wrenching letter the amazing survivor wrote should be required reading for all high school students. Reading the powerful, fervent words of this survivor will have an impact unequaled to anything taught in a textbook. That letter, so compelling and beautifully written, also serves as a mental refuge for the millions of other women who have been and are continually violated.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college”; 90% of these assaults are not reported. Additionally, approximately 63% of men who admitted to committing these crimes also stated they had done so on more than one occasion. Campus rape is nothing new: but the conversation, tolerance, and awareness of the issue is exploding.
Teaching our children to be upstanders, not merely bystanders, is crucial. An upstander is someone who proactively supports those who may be targeted by bullies and perpetrators. These individuals focus on being a positive influence in their community. An upstander is someone who, when observing an inebriated young woman walking out of a party alone or with a person with questionable intentions, intervenes to ensure this individual arrives home safely.
- Be mindful of the messages our young people are inundated with daily. Use media informed stories as opportunities to spark open and honest conversation.
- Focus on positive examples of humanity in your own family, community, and the world. There are so many amazing, caring people.
- Encourage your children to be upstanders.
- Lead by example.
The ripples of change being left by this outrageous oceanic disturbance has allowed a chorus of voices to be heard over the roaring wave of complacency when it comes to sexual violence. Let your child hear your wise voice.
(Photos: Adobe Stock)