The high profile events in Steubenville, Ohio, involving the rape of a drunken sixteen year old girl by two fellow high school students, have the potential to shine a broad swath of light on “acquaintance rape” in America. My students and I have been taking the complexities apart in classroom discussions since the guilty verdict was announced. Here are some of the issues we’ve discussed. They also make for great discussion topics at home.
- America’s “Rape Prone Culture,” especially its “blame the victim” mentality
- Legal definitions of “rape”
- Confusions about the issue of consent
- The power of “group think”
- The association between alcohol use, poor judgment, and dangerous activity
- The lack of adequate adult supervision when teenagers socialize
- The unbridled use of technology in the hands of young people, and its power to ruin or change young lives forever
- “Jock Culture” and the entitled belief that one is special and above the rules
- The complicity of adults in facilitating and even covering up events that encourage sexual assault
- The lack of empathy among perpetrators and bystanders toward another fellow human being
If the judge in the case has his way, there will be a continuing investigation into several of these elements–many students and adults in the community are involved as witnesses or facilitators of the events surrounding the rapes–that will keep these important issues front and center in the news. Let’s hope so.
It’s way past time to take acquaintance rape, its multiple causes, and its aftermath seriously.