The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

March 25, 2013

Editorial: Ohio rape case should be discussed by parents, teens

The culture that surrounds youth sports typically promotes the positive development of young bodies and minds — 99 percent of the time.

Then there are the cases of young minds and bodies that prey upon the culture and prestige of being an athlete. Athletes are near celebrities in sports such as basketball in Indiana or football in Ohio.

And an athlete’s status can change in a moment.

The recent rape case involving two Ohio high school football athletes and a 16-year-old girl understandably outraged the nation. The two athletes were sentenced to a year in juvenile detention facility after being found guilty of sexual assault.

The attacks took place at various parties in Steubenville, Ohio — functions attended by more than 50 people. Videos and photographs were taken. Social media was used to “report” what was happening to the unconscious girl.

The verdict also outraged a nation. Was the boys’ sentence too light? Should the girl ever have claimed rape? Why are the partygoers facing a judge? Should they be barred for life from using social media?

Here’s what every parent should reinforce with their teens, whether they are male or female: being drunk and unconscious is not in any way the same as consenting to sex. This applies to a victim, an attacker, and to the 50 or so people knowing what was happening.

None of what happened in Steubenville that night may have been planned. But that does not mean that witnesses can look away. The actions of the 50 or so — tweeting and messaging one another — served only to again victimize the young girl.

A sad culture existed that night in Steubenville. But it could happen in any community where teens drink, athletes feel privileged and youths tweet tragedies.

But mostly, members of this particular culture seem to share one sad element: rape is misunderstood. Awareness of the crime can’t be stressed enough with its immediate impact on victims and its lingering effects on all involved.

Discussing the Steubenville tragedy is a proper place to start. Parents and teens need to understand that a sexual attack or victimizing friends and acquaintances with social media or allowing a party to turn bad will change the lives of everyone involved.

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