Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three Ohio Victims - the Steubenville Lesson

There are three victims in the Steubenville rape case, not just 1.  We examine the lives of misguided youth through a lens that says the boys in this case were wrong.  The victim has been a topic on blogs, twitter and social media - but a quick scan of articles referenced the inappropriate efforts of attorneys to reference her drinking, her choices, her feedback that she did not remember how she ended up in the situation that led to national attention.  I am a mother of three children.  I have a daughter and two sons.  There are three victims in the Steubenville rape case, not just 1.

I am a Buckeye by birth and by heart.  I understand the culture in Northwest Ohio, and I pay attention when Toledo jokes, Defiance voter scandals and Holy Toledo references make mainstream media.  I have long since stopped defending all of the things I love about Ohio - UT College of Business and Innovation, the Toledo Museum of Art, the zoo - as if there is only 1 zoo in the world, Denison, SUA - to name a few.  I explain Tony Packo's, MASH, Jamie Farr, MudHens and a host of other Ohio cultural phenomenons with ease.  I wasn't such a football fan growing up, but I was a Friday Night Lights addict and I have come to cherish sports in unhealthy ways.  In this case, I think Ohio and the "football culture in Steubenville" are far from the issues at hand.

In an earlier post, I shared my feelings about promise unfulfilled and my angst about the verdict in the Kwame Kilpatrick case.  I thought about the decades before his rise to notariety, the infamous details of his life and failures placed on a national stage.  We read about prison terms, the label of being a juvenille sex offender, and the loss of promise and potential with a casual ease that is as disturbing as the crimes that were committed.  I do indeed believe crimes were in abundance for the Steubenville case - committed both by the teens and the adults surrounding them. 

My coverage of the case would have read something like this: 
1. Minors with access to drugs and alcohol make really stupid choices. 
2. Unsupervised teens without a moral compass or value base, or good judgement, make poor choices. 
3. Amidst a bad situation, technology used as a tool to create further harm for Ohio teen. 
4. Violation of basic decency leads to life lessons for youth and parents. 

Instead, I have read that the 16 and 17 year old boys are men who knew better.  The female has been identified as a victim, a girl, youth and young lady - with careful attention to scold the awful ways that she was described by her peers and upset parents. 

No, sport hero, athlete or young man should be exempt from the consequences of their actions based on their potential.  Nor should a 16 or 17 year old young man, teenager, youth - lose the potential of their future, their promise or their contribution to society - based on decisions made at this age.  I am grieved by the situation on so many levels.  I am grieved because of our societal reaction and the outrage of the community, where it has been convenient to take sides but unpopular to recount all of the facts that exist in the case.  I wasn't there.  As much as I love Ohio, I think this situation is one that is played out in beloved communities everywhere.  I think we are quick to judge and quick to place labels, but slow to offer solutions for the culture that we have created.  There are three victims in this case I believe.  Two boys who have been forever changed by their bad choices, and 1 young girl who will live with the impact of her choices for a lifetime. 

As a mother of boys and a girl, I grieve the entire situation.  They collectively deserve a better foundation and a stronger start to life.  Add the quick nature of technology, social media and 24 hour news coverage - and you have an even bigger problem.  I'm ready for the discussions that recognize we need a solution to the violence perpetrated against children and teens, and the thoughtful exchange about the challenge of raising moral youth in an immoral society.  The buck stops here, but I pray to God I never have to read about the failures of my children in blog columns that pick sides without at least an attempt, to propose true solutions.  

What do you think? 

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