On Sunday, an unusual day for a court to be held in Ohio, a judge found two high school football players guilty of rape. In what became a short trial that divided the football-crazed Rust Belt town of Steubenville, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found guilty of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl.
On the stand, the 16-year-old girl could recall nothing from that August night where a large group of teenagers held a party, and she consumed large amounts of alcohol to the point that she woke up the next morning on the street vomiting. While she might not remember the assault, she quickly learned all about it through text messages, photos and posts on social media.
I have followed this controversial case from the beginning through Sunday’s ending. There are so many angles in this case that most parents should consider when looking at today’s generation of teenagers.
While the two teenagers deserve prison time for the digital rape, which means they penetrated the young lady with their fingers while she was passed out, I have to ask why more charges haven’t been filed against the numerous teenagers who stood around videotaping, photographing and laughing about what was being done to one of their classmates.
Without these photos and posts a conviction would have been impossible. But, instead of taking all the photos, and posting all of it, why didn’t any of these teenagers set down the phones, tell the two boys to stop and help put the drunk teenager in a safer location?
The 16-year-old girl testified that she found out about what happened to her from text messages from friends. As parents, it should become a priority to teach our children that your friends don’t take pictures, post nude photos of you and then tell you about it the next day. Friends are people you trust to protect you from such a thing. They stop the act before it becomes the joke of the school.
As reaction from Sunday’s verdict came through, I found interesting what all the parents of the students involved had to say. The mother of the victim called the two suspects immoral.
“Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It is a God-given gift instilled in all of us,” the victim’s mother said after court was adjourned. “You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code.”
While I take nothing away from this mother’s pain, or her daughter’s long road to recovering from this inexcusable act, I still wonder what the young lady was taught to be drinking so excessively at such a party.
Growing up, I was always taught to accept responsibility and realize that how I behave can also reflect what can happen. I teach my teenage daughter the same rules. Don’t put yourself in such a position, don’t go out drinking at some underage party and allow yourself to be photographed.
Today’s parties have certainly changed from the past. As I have explained to my teenage daughter on multiple occasions, social media makes it a whole new ball game. It exposes rape, changes a young lady’s life to where she has no privacy, and when it comes to a small town, she never will.
As the dad of one of the suspects said after he learned his son would be in prison for up to two years, parents are not there to be their child’s friend, they are there to be parents.
Bottom line, at the end of the day, preventing what happened to this 16-year-old girl, instilling a sense of right and wrong in all those who stood by doing nothing and sending a message to popular teenage boys that they are not above the law are important lessons that all teenagers should be taught.