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Who is to blame for Steubenville?
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D.B. McWhite

The Steubenville rape case is finally over, with both teenage boys -- Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond -- found guilty and sentenced. And while the seemingly compassionless behavior of the young men toward the intoxicated and unconscious young woman deserved punishment, I have to wonder if the righteous anger one feels regarding the boys, absolves the young woman of her responsibility in this tragedy.

Rape is a terrible crime that physically and psychologically scars the victim, often for a lifetime. So up front I call the act committed against this young victim criminal. To be further victimized by having the violation photographed and passed along to her classmates and peers adds further insult to injury.

As women, there are

dangers we must

guard against.

I feel strongly, however, that along with the message to young men that it is not only wrong but criminal to take sexual advantage of an otherwise intoxicated woman, that a message also should be sent to young women to avoid putting themselves in situations where inebriation leaves them vulnerable to attack.

I don’t believe it is blaming the victim to suggest that women must take care of themselves and, when possible, employ common-sense practices to keep themselves out of harm’s way. To say anything less depicts women as powerless and completely subject to the whims of others.

While I refuse to say, “Boys will be boys,” I do say, “kids will be kids.” And when you mix together a bunch of teenagers, alcohol and lack of parental control, you have created the perfect environment for out-of-control behavior where some such tragedy might easily be predicted.

Few parents send their girls off into the dating world without first admonishing them to be on the lookout for guys who might slip a “mickey” into their drinks.

All too often, though, it isn’t a spiked drink that leads our children into trouble. When young people are intoxicated to the degree the Steubenville victim was, they are left vulnerable to anything and anyone who would violate them –- sexual assaults, kidnappings, car accidents, alcohol intoxication or even murder. How many times have we seen a college kid found dead from alcohol poisoning following a night of heavy drinking?

As the mother of a daughter whom I cherish, my heart goes out to the young woman whose life is forever changed by the events of that night. It will undoubtedly take years and many hours of counseling before she can rebuild the trust and confidence she had before the assault.

As the mother of two sons, my heart also is with the young men who I believe also were victims. It was gut wrenching seeing the young men sob as their lives fell apart.

I suspect that these unfortunate young men are not much different than most of our own sons -- just gaining a new level of freedom, subject to peer pressure and with burgeoning sexuality. Then after an evening of unrestrained partying, through a fog of alcohol and without adult supervision, they were expected to make decisions that could affect them for the rest of their lives.

I am not among the throng who see the boys in this crime as all guilty and the girl as all innocent. I believe there is responsibility enough to go around -- the adults who didn’t supervise, the young men who took advantage and acted without concern for the well-being of their supposed friend, and, I believe, the young woman whose drunken state allowed her to become victimized.

If some good is to come from this tragedy, it must be an admonition to all.

As women, there are dangers we must guard against. So we are told to avoid the dark alley. We are told to lock our windows and to watch our drinks when we’re out in clubs. We are expected to do what we can to protect ourselves from those who would do us harm.

When we use alcohol to drink ourselves into oblivion, we place our lives and our well being in the hands of others, sometimes with tragic results.

D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.

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October 7, 2015
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