Friday, April 5, 2013

Teen Roundtable: Steubenville

We had a chat with our teens last week about Steubenville. If you don't know what that's all about, consider yourself lucky. But here are a couple articles I sent our teens in preparation for our chat. We reference a few of them in the post. Feel free to check them out, too. (Some of us couldn't stomach the video - good luck)

Alison: Ready to talk about Steubenville? 
Copil: No, but let's do it anyway. First question... Someone mentioned that we now have people who understand the dangers of drinking and driving... And that came as a result of a concerted effort to get that message out. Do you think a similar effort can be made to get out the word about rape and sexual assault? 
Jaime: I think so. It's dangerous to assume that everyone understands exactly what constitutes rape and sexual assault. The more we get that message out there the better. That said, there will always be people who still do it. 
Lennon: Honestly, no. I think we live in a very hyper-sexual society and rape and sexual assault are almost glamorized and will never be taken seriously. 
Copil: Lennon, what do you see as an example of glamorizing assault and rape? 
Lennon: Maybe glamorizing isn't the best choice of words. But people don't really take it seriously. Case and point, the people who feel oh, so awful that these poor boys were convicted of raping a girl who was asking for it 
Chihuahua Zero: I think that although there is an increased effort compared with yesteryears, there isn't as much push for awareness compared with topics like drinking and driving. Thinking about it, rape isn't a topic covered in my school's Health class. 
Lexie: The whole "teaching the 'dangers' of rape and sexual assault" always makes me slightly wary, because we have programs and people who are doing that, but oftentimes, what they're doing is teaching girls how NOT TO GET RAPED instead of teaching boys NOT TO RAPE, which is a really scary and awful approach. 
Copil: I agree with you, Lexie. The whole education effort in college especially seems to be this. But the kind of efforts I'm talking about are the school posters and TV PSA's, like MADD did for D&D 
Lexie: Yeah. It's part of rape culture--people nowadays prefer to place the blame on the victim rather than the rapists, as can be clearly seen with Steubenville. And I see what you're saying. It certainly WOULD be beneficial to increase awareness, and I don't think they really do enough in schools. In fact, we barely cover it at ours. 
Copil: The whole idea that if the message gets out often enough, eventually it sinks in for some people who might otherwise not have gotten the message anywhere else. 
Jaime: I'm reading THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney right now and I think she sums up the message really well: "A lack of yes is a no." I think a phrase like that could be as effective as "Don't Drink and Drive." 
Katy: I think THE MOCKINGBIRDS handles sexual assault really well, Jaime 
Jaime: I had no idea when I picked it up just how relevant it would be to this conversation tonight. Kind of timely actually. 
Copil: That's a great message. I'm adding that to my "kit" when I have "the talk" with my boys. 

Matt: Okay, as a dad, and a guy who played football in HS, I really have to say that the onus for changing rape "culture" (god I hate that term) is not on women. It's on men. It's on dads, and when dads aren't there, it's on coaches. 
Copil: Agreed, Matt. This had shades of Sandusky all over it. Collapse of the extended role our mentors play. 
Matt: Exactly, Copil. Where are the decent human beings in this world? I really loved the post Henry Rollins did about the whole thing, in which he talked about WTH was going on in this town that a culture existed in which these boys would think doing such a thing was even remotely okay? 

Chihuahua Zero: One thing I found interesting about the Steubenville incident was the role social media played in it. "incident" an all right term, or is it too trivial? 
Matt: I agree, CZ. The social media angle is what makes Steubenville the story that it is. That and the Anon/KnightSec angle. 
Lennon: I actually couldn't get through reading the article that Alison sent me because I got so freaking pissed off. I think everyone who distributed the videos and picture should face time in jail. Why is it okay to just sit there and laugh a "dead slutty" girl get raped and abused? 
Alison: Alright - here's my two cents - and this could just be the adult in me - I do believe there is a rape issue here, but more importantly - there's a lack of humanity. I cannot even comprehend how anyone can think that dragging an unconscious girl and raping her repeatedly can be accepted no matter what. And what's worse - is that people WATCHED it and videotaped it and did NOTHING.
Katy: I agree, Alison... The crowd mentality is a scary, scary thing. 
Alison: I think the issue is beyond the rape 
Lennon: I completely agree with that 
Matt: Totally agree, Alison. And I really wonder how much of that had to do with fear. Fear of the boys who did it because of their status as star football players. And then how much of it was actual apathy toward the situation, you know? 
Chihuahua Zero: A person's ability to be apathetic is surprisingly strong. I think it's an evolutionary survival technique--to distance yourself from people not inside your "tribe"--that leads to harm more than good.
Matt: I think that could be a big part of it, CZ.
Alison: Agreed - CZ. It's the same with bullying. BUT - to videotape and show later - that's not apathy 
Matt: Alison, that's true. Maybe apathetic toward stopping it at the time, but wanting to fit in later by resharing? 
Lennon: All this showed me is that my lack of faith in humanity was correct 
Alison: I know, Lennon - I really have a hard time functioning after stuff like this. About the only thing that keeps me going is looking at focusing on my kids who make decent and HUMANE choices 
Jaime: I watched a good chunk of the video (despite my better judgment) and one of the things that appalled me was someone in the background who *sounded* like they had good sense, understood what was wrong about the whole thing, but NOBODY called the police. Disgusting. 
Chihuahua Zero: Still, I find it interesting the rashness some of the participants took in terms of posting on social media. It gave us timestamped evidence by using Twitter and Instagram and such. 
Matt: Considering the fact that the victim couldn't remember, the digital evidence is the only thing that really convicted those guys, which is sad and sick, but true. 
Lennon: where is the video? I assumed that someone with half of normal brain function would have taken it down by now...
Matt: Lennon, the video should still be available, if you're talking about the 12 minute Nodamos guys rant.  It doesn't contain the actual assault. 
Lexie: What I find almost as shocking is the coverage this got, particularly from CNN. Two boys are being tried for brutally raping a drunk girl and videotaping it and the news reporters are lamenting the loss of the boys' futures, without a SINGLE WORD about the innocent girl whose life was ruined. I was so completely disgusted that I couldn't even watch half the broadcasts. 
Lennon: Lexie- that is why I don't watch the news 
Lexie: Lennon: I might have to follow your lead. 
Alison: OMG - Lexie - I would have thrown something at the television had I seen that 
Lexie: Alison: I actually did--I tossed the remote, and then when I was feeling a little more logical, I got up and shut it off. I couldn't even listen to it. 
Copil: I agree, Lexie. And I think that's where even my eternal optimism dims a little. If CNN anchors (who arguably represent a more educated population than the Steubenville kids) can't see a problem with that language, then the message isn't getting through even to the educated classes. 
Lexie: Copil: And they're also using their position to spread those sort of views to the masses and keep rape culture alive.
Chihuahua Zero: What's amazing is that ten years ago, the players might've gotten away with this, since technology wasn't as streamlined and the Internet not as widespread. 
Matt: Exactly, CZ. 
Lexie: Yeah, Chihuahua, horrifying as that thought is, it's true. Rape victims have a hard enough time getting convictions even when they were fully conscious, let alone drunk. This might not have even come to court. 
Lennon: has anyone else seen this video 
Matt: Yes! Best PSA ever 

Alison: Here's a quote from Henry Rollins: It is ironic and sad that the person who is going to do a life sentence is her. Why can't the news say THAT 
Jaime: That particular line in that article with Henry Rollins really stuck with me.
Matt: The whole Henry Rollins thing was so awesome. Why isn't that guy coaching our young men, and teach them what it means to be a man? 

Chihuahua Zero: Still, social media is a whole new factor in the world of crime. The text part is more spur-of-the-moment, and the visual part more reliable than verbal eyewitness accounts. It's a bittersweet positive in the entire thing, as it leads to more evidence, but also says something about people and technology. 
Copil: CZ, do you feel social media encourages this sort of behavior? Or simply facilitates it? I feel more the latter, since this kind of thing has been going on long before Steubenville. 
Chihuahua Zero: I feel like social media is just another potential tool in such behavior. One problem is that people are more willing to go on Twitter than call 911, even though the latter is faster. Social media feels friendly, regardless of what position it puts you in at the end of the night. But yet again, social media, like any other tool, can be used for bad or good. 
Jaime: I think that's especially true in this case: Bad that social media was used in the first place, but good that it allowed them to convict these guys. 
Matt: Well said, CZ. Without the sharing of this incident, the poor girls rep probably wouldn't be so destroyed, but the boys might have gotten away with it. 
Copil: Agreed, Jaime. They actually discussed that the FBI would eventually look at their texts. Morons. 
Katy: Did they really? That's nuts. 
Jaime: Copil: It just goes to show how invincible these guys think they are. 
Copil: I think you're right, Jaime. I think the culture led them to believe they could do no wrong. 

Alison: I think social media is a wonderful thing. And here - it definitely served for good eventually. And yeah - okay if you're going to video tape or take pictures, fine, if it's for future evidence. BUT I still can't get over how no one tried to stop it. or get help 
Matt: BTW, the authorities are still considering further charges. It's a felony in Ohio to have knowledge of a felony being committed and not report it. 
Lexie: I just can't really grasp how anyone could just sit by and FILM while that was occurring without saying a single word, without moving to help, without even CALLING for help. I honestly just cannot comprehend it. 
Jaime: I just can't imagine caring THAT much what others think of me that I wouldn't report a crime like this. It's unfathomable. 

Chihuahua Zero: By the way, sports culture is quite the thing. It creates quite the collection of mindsets. It can be innocent, like yelling like the rep, but can also lead to guilt, like putting the involved football players onto a pedestal. 
Alison: It all depends on who the coach, parents, and community are, CZ 
Chihuahua Zero: Another lesson to take away from this that it's not inherently bad to look up at someone, but it turns bad if you let it blind you when they fall and harm. 

Copil: Alison made a good point about this sort of desensitization. Not even talking about the rape part, but just the simple act of taking off your clothes with another guy in the room. I mean, am I just a prude? I just don't ever recall having a gangbang with my bros. 
Katy: I wondered about that too, Copil. I can't imagine any of the males I know wanting to be a part of that kind of group behavior... 
Matt: Keep in mind Copil, this kind of thing isn't about sex or arousal. It's a about power, plain and simple. They were shaming this girl on purpose, because she dumped a friend of theirs, and because they could. 
Copil: Yeah, Katy. Even in a consensual situation, it takes a particular mindset to think of a party as a porn shoot. 
Matt: And no, when I was a teen I could barely look at my own body, let alone be undressed with other dudes in the room. *shivers* 
Copil: Dude, Matt, were you and I the same guy in HS? 
Jaime: Matt raises a good point. This was all about power and control. Given their status on the football team, neither of these guys probably had trouble getting girls, so it wasn't just about sex. 
Copil: Do you guys think the rapists knew what they were doing, knew it was rape? Did they even think of it as wrong? Or do you think they knew exactly what they were doing and just didn't care? This kind of goes to CZ's point. If they knew what they were doing and just didn't care, hero worship likely played a role. 
Matt: I take a slightly different tack, Copil. 
Lennon: I don't think anyone truly understands what rape is anymore 
Chihuahua Zero: To be honest, I don't want to speculate and presume about the rapists' motivation. What matters is that they did something wrong, and they most likely knew they were doing SOMETHING wrong. And we need to learn from this if we want to improve society. 
Jaime: It's hard to guess what was going through the minds of such awful excuses for human beings, but I think it was exactly that: They knew what they were doing and just didn't care. 
Matt: I don't think they did. I think at least consciously, they convinced themselves it wasn't rape. I've known some guys like that, and they really go through life full of a sense of entitlement. They probably had a lot of other girls giving them whatever they wanted sexually, so they figured they could show this "slut" what was up, and that she completely deserved it. I don't see kids who had so much going for them doing what they did if they were actually aware it was wrong. Subconsciously might be another thing, obvs. 
Lexie: I find it hard to believe that those boys weren't aware of their actions. Maybe not the full scope of them, but I think they damn well knew and just couldn't care less. They'd been raised in a culture that taught them you, as a male and a star, have this right, and you are invincible. 
Copil: I agree, Matt. I feel like if you asked each of those guys if rape is wrong they would all say of course it's wrong. But if you ask if what they did was rape, they would answer no. 
Matt: Exactly. They convinced themselves she asked for it. Cognitive dissonance. That not that makes any any closer to okay. Not one iota.
Copil: I guess I'm kind of stuck on the issue of what they were thinking because I'm not sure it's that far from a lot of boys that age think (meaning, they don't understand what constitutes sexual assault, rape, consent, etc). Most boys won't do what they did. But if there's a chance others could be pulled from ignorance before something awful like this happens, it's worth asking the question. 
 Lexie: I don't really know which is more frightening--the idea that the boys were well aware of what they were doing and simply didn't care, or that they'd been so polluted by upbringing that they couldn't even recognize their own actions for what they were. 

Chihuahua Zero: By the way, one point I want to discuss is the reputation Steubenville will have for the years to come. Many incidents are named after the places they took place in. Will we always connect Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook to their respective shootings as long as they exist? Will people, even if it's just a fraction of the population, hear of Steubenville, and deep down think about the wrongdoings that occurred there? 
Matt: Good points, CZ. I don't think Steubenville will ever shake this rep. Or it will take a very long time. 
Chihuahua Zero: It's sad that the guilty's actions have given their town a terrible legacy that will likely overshadow many small but good things for years to come. Am I right to feel that, even though a lot of the community played a negative role in the entire incident, even if by mindset? 
Jaime: CZ: Very true. I had never heard of Columbine before the shootings and now it will forever be connected to that in my mind. Steubenville will most likely be remembered for this, unfortunately. 
Matt: I think it's fair to mourn the community a bit, CZ. The coach, the sherrif, one prosecutor, and probably more were certainly corrupt, but surely there are a lot of good people who live there too. 
Copil: Also goes back to the issue of working on "How not to Rape" vs. "How to Keep from Getting Raped." 

Jaime: Did any of you follow that link on Field Trip Friday on YA Highway last week? The one where the teacher discussed what constitutes rape with her class? Some of the students in her class actually thought it wasn't rape because the girl wasn't able to say no. I was kind of horrified by that. 
Copil: I agree, Jaime. And I just feel like that's one of the messages that I just don't see enough. At least not in the media boys see a lot. 
Alison: I didn't read that, but WHOA - I'm horrified too, Jaime! 
Chihuahua Zero: -reading article- Wow... 
Jaime: That's why it's so important to *actually* teach kids that the only thing that means yes is an actual yes. And without that yes, it's a no. All the time. Period. 
Copil: Yes, a million times, yes. This: "If you want to keep teens from being rapists, you can no longer assume that they know how. You HAVE to talk about it." 
Chihuahua Zero: By discussing the issue early, maybe we can cut down on the negative parts of rape culture. 
Jaime: I agree wholeheartedly, CZ.
Chihuahua Zero: Like many other issues, I hope that we will improve about it over the generations, as good habits and mindsets are passed on more and more until the negative opinions are pushed to the fringes. 
Matt: "When one of the boys asked, well what do you want me to do, get a napkin and make her sign it, about four girls from the back yelled, YEAH!" 
Chihuahua Zero: While many such issues are still far from reaching their ideal conclusion, and will likely never will, society has a obligation to bring up the issues and work on them step by step. 
Lexie: I just read the article, and while the students' original viewpoints really horrified me, the article itself is definitely encouraging. We need more teachers like her. 
Copil: @Lexie "We need more EVERYONE like her." Fixed that for ya.
Alison: AGREED 

Lots of awesome, insightful discussion from our teens and operatives. What are your thoughts? On Steubenville? The conviction? The use of social media in cases like this? And our current "rape culture?" Share your thoughts in the comments.
Oh, and after all this heavy discussion, try to have a great weekend!


Eliza Tilton said...

It's sad what's happening with our youth. I noticed how the dad's were consoling their sons. If my son pulled something like that, he would't have to worry about the police because his father would give him a swift kick to the ass-pardon the language. As parents it's our job to raise our kids with morals. Kids also need a healthy dose of fear, fear of what the repurcussions of their actions will do.

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