A Call to Action from Steubenville, Ohio

Wed, 2013-03-20 08:36 � cristina

By Julia Dieperink, Break the Cycle Intern

On Sunday March 17th 2013, two high school boys from Steubenville, Ohio were convicted of raping one of their classmates while she was drunk and passed out at a party.

The media attention (online and off!) surrounding this case has been overwhelming. A lot of the coverage focuses on what good athletes and students these boys are, while ignoring or vilifying the girl they raped. When you’re someone who advocates against violence, it can be easy to get stuck in confusion and even anger as you listen.

But it is important to step back from all of mayhem and remind ourselves that this is what rape culture is. This is what it looks like on a large, national scale. The reactions to this conviction, as well as probably the rape itself, are the result of years of off-handed comments about ‘sluts,’ differentiating between ‘real’ rape and ‘date rape’/’gray rape’ and all sorts of victim-blaming.

As adults, we must remember to make sure that the young people in our lives know that they can talk to us, even if it makes them (or us) uncomfortable. Unless you speak up, the only messages teens may be hearing are these skewed media reports and the thoughts of other, just as uninformed young people.

So start talking with our children, our nieces and nephews, even the kids whose little league team we coach. Remind them that the absence of a ‘no’ is not the same thing as consent. Remind them that events, like the one in Ohio, are tragedies, but that they only happen if we continue to be silent and not speak out against unhealthy behaviors.

Steubenville, Ohio should be a call to action for adults.

A call to make sure that no young person walks around with the idea that it wasn’t rape because of X, Y, and Z. The simple fact is that if there wasn’t consent than it IS rape. It can be very uncomfortable to talk to teenagers about sex. But when we get past that and have meaningful conversations about enthusiastic consent, meaningful change will start to happen.

A call to make sure that we are having conversations with young people, not just about sex and consent, but about healthy communication skills and safe ways to intervene in unhealthy situations.

A call to try and prevent these tragedies from happening in the first place, because while the girl from Steubenville saw her rapists convicted of a crime, many similar crimes go unreported.

We owe more to our young people than slut-shaming, victim-blaming and rape culture.

We owe them a future where no one is afraid to go to a party, where conversations about consent are ongoing and commonplace and where violence in relationships is nonexistent.

Need tips to get the conversation started? Explore breakthecycle.org and loveisrepect.org for more information.