The Ethically Challenged in Steubenville and Beyond
The fact that two teenage football players raped an intoxicated teenager is bad enough. They have now been convicted of their crimes. But the additional fact that other teens not only watched and did not intervene to help the victim but also took photos which they then broadcast with social media is even more disturbing.
The fact that two teenage football players raped an intoxicated teenager is bad enough. They have now been convicted of their crimes.
But the additional fact that other teens not only watched and did not intervene to help the victim but also took photos which they then broadcast with social media is even more disturbing.
We can only assume that no one involved, either rapists or bystanders, saw any moral fault or legal risk for themselves. So Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were no doubt surprised to be arrested and even more surprised to be convicted and sentenced to serve time as juveniles.
How can this be? We live in a rape culture that even after many years of awareness raising and activism still accepts sexual violence as just the way things are and still casually explains male violence with “boys will be boys.” But they were old enough to know better and to make different choices. My question is: what did they learn from their community of parents, teachers, spiritual leaders and coaches about respectful behavior, especially toward women?
Why did they seem to have no moral compass when faced with a peer who was incapacitated and vulnerable? In Christian teaching, the story of the Good Samaritan teaches that when we encounter the injured, incapacitated person by the side of the road, our responsibility as a bystander is to stop and attend to their needs and get them to safety until they can recover. Our response to this neighbor in need is not to stop, rape them, steal their possessions and leave them to fend for themselves.
It sounds like some of the bystanders were concerned, but no one intervened and took the young woman home. Others turned the rapes into a social media event. And this is the part of the story that is not yet complete. The Ohio Attorney General is convening a Grand Jury in April to consider prosecuting the bystanders. In Ohio, it is felony to fail to report a crime. But this law assumes that you know it is a crime, which we know many of the bystanders did not because, as they said, “it wasn’t violent.” Clearly, there is a lack of education and understanding around what constitutes sexual assault and violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. So what should we be teaching the young people in our faith communities, families, and schools? How can we, as the community that surrounds and supports them, contribute to a healthier and safer environment? We must make our efforts to end sexual violence as widespread as rape culture itself. And check this out – Morality 101 for the ethically challenged.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
P.S. Visit our website this month for educational materials and resources such as Sexual Violence: The Sin Revisited