Imagine if the scenario had gone something like this: the football players after drinking way too much, were taken from party to party, stripped naked, urinated on, raped and humiliated, while many people stood around laughing, and making jokes.
Cameras snapped photos and filmed the event to share with the world on Facebook and Twitter. The football players will now be known as whores and informed that the entire incident was their fault as they had been drinking alcohol. That story would have created a frenzy of outcry and would have been front page news in every part of the country.
That one voice had the strength to rise up, louder and stronger over an entire town that personifies rape culture. A town that was not horrified by the fact that several young men felt it was perfectly acceptable to drag a nearly comatose 16-year-old girl from party to party, raping, urinating, and performing whatever act they felt inclined to indulge in, while she was unable to protest.
There were many, many witnesses to what was happening to her, but no one stopped it.
People laughed, filmed, took pictures, joked, tweeted, but not one person called the police or stepped in to save this girl.
Once the crime was reported by the victim, the town quickly cast a protective net around the boys and united under one cause: save the Big Red football team. Evidence was tampered with and lost, a smear campaign to discredit the victim was immediately launched, instructions were given from adults in authority to delete, deny, and discredit. The corruption is staggering. The real problem is not just the act of rape.
When you get to the roots of this horrible tragedy and how it happened, it becomes quite clear that an entire town culture believes that boys are worth more than girls, especially if they are on the football team. The people involved in this tragedy, including those that stood by and did nothing to prevent it, thoroughly enjoyed filming it and sharing the events in real time on the internet. There was no shame, no identification that this behavior was horrifyingly inappropriate. Steubenville is not unique in this belief. We have seen it over and over. A group of entitled individuals carry out atrocities on other humans that they feel are worth less.
Where is the outrage for Jane Doe?
How is it possible to treat a human being in this manner? How can any of us stay silent knowing that a human being was, and is still, being treated with such blatant disregard of her basic dignity and human rights? Not only was she victimized that night, but she is still being victimized with death threats.
The one message that is getting out loud and clear from Steubenville: If you want to rape someone don’t film it or put it out on social media. The judge in this case, did not caution the boys not to rape, but to be careful when drinking alcohol and using social media. Many people have responded to the tragedy of the fallen football stars and the fact that both boys will be labeled as registered sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
What about the unwanted labels Jane Doe will carry for the rest of her life? Her actions and her bravery to stand up for her human rights have given her the power to define and change those labels. She is not a rape victim. She is a rape survivor. She is brave, courageous and most of all inspiring. Her tragedy shines a bright light on a very dark aspect of American culture.
We have to see the big picture in this lesson. It is each individuals responsibility to protect the rights of all beings. We must teach our children compassion, respect and the responsibility of standing up for individuals who cannot stand up for themselves.
We must impart the importance of humility over entitlement. The two boys who were convicted are just the tip of the rape culture iceberg. It is of utmost importance for all of us to examine our actions and identify any way that we have unknowingly contributed to this rape culture. I am not a fan of censorship, but what messages are being sent from song lyrics, TV shows and magazines to our children? Do we glorify the bad behavior of celebrities and athletes? Do we make time to discuss the many famous and non-famous individuals who work hard to make the world a better place?
If every person, male and female, who had been a victim of sexual assault stood up all at once, the image would be mind blowing.
All abuse has one thing in common: it begins by a person or group of people, believing they are entitled to carry out their abuse on others who are worth less. It continues, because the people around those entitled individuals become afraid and either join in or remain silent. I will not remain silent. Will you?
Melissa Codispoti teaches yoga/wellness classes that specialize in mind, body, spirit connection through a heart opening, musically enriched environment accessible to everyone. She has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and believes the yoga mat is a sacred place for self-reflection, healing, and joy. Melissa loves yoga, qigong, pilates, reading, collecting antique poetry books, kirtan, fashion, philosophy, traveling, and most importantly being a mom. She is dedicated to human rights issues and blogs frequently on her personal blog page: Distractions of a Yogini.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta