To the editor:
I read that 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old drunk girl in Steubenville, Ohio. Each boy was sentenced to the minimum sentence of one year in a youth facility. Mays was given an additional year for transmitting nude photos.
For a few minutes as I looked over the photos of the sobbing boys I felt something that felt like sadness for the rapists. I realize that their victim will live with the disgusting way that she was violated for the rest of her life, but these boys who brazenly carried out the revolting acts of abuse against an unconscious girl were victims too. They were victims of a society that demonstrates that such abuses go unpunished, a society that teaches young men that humiliating women is funny, that drunk girls are fair prey and that if you are an athlete there are coaches, school administrators and even entire towns that will rally behind you.
The details of the rape shared by the media offer me the perception that those boys carried out their crimes like little demigods, completely unafraid of any consequences, even as photos and videos were taken and put on the Internet.
I wonder if coaches will start having conversations with athletes about gender equality. I wonder if schools will implement zero-tolerance policies for student athletes involved in sexual violence. I wonder if parents will have conversations with their children about what to do if they see another child drinking, vomiting and vulnerable. I wonder if parents will start conversations about sex, rape and respect. I wonder if ministers and youth leaders will recognize their responsibility to talk to kids about the relationship between religion and equality. I wonder if people will realize that rape jokes, and stories that demean women lead young men like Mays and Richmond to a lifetime on the sex offender registry.