I have been pretty consumed with the now infamous Steubenville rape case, as I think most people across the country who spend time on the internet have been. Every time I read about a rape it has an emotional impact on me, as a sensitive lady who has experienced some sexual assault, but this particular case has haunted me in a way that others usually don’t. I have felt so physically sickened thinking about the horrors that the victim experienced that night, and the disgusting reactions that the case has spawned.
I think the reason that I have been so affected by the rape is that it hits close to home for me. I didn’t go to a high school with a legendary football team, but I did go to school with boys who were capable of such acts. They were my friends, and largely still are my friends. I look back at the things that these kids said to me about their interactions with girls and am disgusted with myself for not seeing how deplorable it was. I just chuckled and kept my head down, so blinded by the rape culture all around me that I couldn’t identify that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something about this all wasn’t right. Those boys were rapists. I didn’t know it though. How messed up is it that it took me so many years to be able to grasp what consent is? Why wasn’t this taught to us between chemistry and theology lessons?
I hate to think about it, but I fear that even someone as committed to smashing the patriarchy as me could have been a bystander to that. I could have been one of the Stuebenville victim’s female classmates calling her a whore on twitter. I could have been one of the people at the party, laughing at the drunk girl. I knew that there were some things going on at my high school that made me feel weird, but I didn’t yet have the tools to articulate what was going on. We need to give young people those tools and the information they need to grow into healthy, respectful, ethical sexualities. So many weekends in high school I got drunk to the point of near unconsciousness and let smelly boys on sports teams finger me behind bushes, because that was the only model of sexuality I had seen. That’s what people did. I was taken advantage of but was far luckier than the victim of the Stuebenville rapists. Things need to change but I feel helpless as to how to change them.