A Tiny, Angry Rant From a Mother

Breaking the TackleNext to our gun culture, we’re a sports culture.

Think about how the students reacted at Penn State when their beloved coach Joe Paterno left. Think about the alleged decade-long cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous activities about sex with children under the blessings of a charity for children.

And it was all in the name of good sportsmanship, wasn’t it? There was lots of guilt going around from those who protected the perpetrator to the media people slow to catch on and wary to report that things were unhappy in Happy Valley.

Now we have the two young men from Steubenville, Ohio, a place like so many in America, where sports – and particularly football – is the center of life. In reporting this sexual assault story, the media once again fall on the altar of sports with coverage about the two boys and how their lives are ruined.

Do I sound bitter? I am. I will go so far to bastardize what comedian George Carlin once said about religion, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.”

More people have been excused in the name of sports than for any other reason.

The boys did wrong. And I don’t care if it was ten minutes before their 18th birthdays. A judge found that they gang raped an underage girl while video-taping the crime. Yes, I said crime. Rape is a crime of violence and power, and has little to do with sex. They took advantage of her intoxication and committed a crime for which they should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Plain and simple, what they did was wrong. As I understand it, they will serve only one year even after being convicted.

The hue and cry from the media is that their sports careers are over, their lives have been tainted, the community was rocked by scandal. What other clichés can you name?

When ever is athletics more important than anything else? When? And what about the actual victim? What about her life? She will serve a life sentence of mental anguish.

If we as a society didn’t glorify sports so much, would this have had a different outcome? I can’t answer that question. I have to ask it, though, because the story is not about two of the State of Ohio’s prize-winning debaters or the Future Farmers of America. It is about football players. I don’t recall seeing many stories about the rape culture of the local debate society.

Sports, by itself, is a good thing. Our children learn to work on teams, develop self-confidence, and understand how to win and lose with grace. But as a society, we have to stop making it more than it is. Period.

Guest contributor Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana writer whose column “The Raven Lunatic” runs in a dozen newspapers and magazines. Amy specializes in health writing, with a passion for rehabilitation and disability issues. She also enjoys writing about politics, travel and the arts. Follow her on Twitter at @ravenonhealth, at her web-site www.amyabbottwrites.com or as  Bernadine Spitzsnogel on Open Salon.  She likes to hear from readers at amy@amyabbottwrites.com.

Image via iStockphoto

  • Beverly Uhlmer

    Dear Amy,

    Thank you so much for this insightful article. It is disgusting that the perpetrators have garnered the public sympathy rather than the victim. I particularly appreciate your assessment that it is the violence of the actions rather than the sex act that is the most egregious. I have long held that rape should not require actual sexual penetration; it is the agression toward someone who is weaker that is the crime. No woman or girl should have to prove that she has been raped. She should only have to accuse her assailant of violent agression and prove this action in order to have him convicted.

  • Anonymous

    I know people say that rape is not about sex but rather about power, yet I have to disagree. In this case, power and sex are closely related.

    These boys were sexually aroused in order for this to have happened so let’s talk about that…how it’s even possible for young men to be physically turned on in these type of situations. Their view of sex is not normal and not healthy but to say it’s only about power is denying the way society has taught many males that women are there for their pleasure.

    Let’s not forget that for the victim, the way she views sex and her own sexuality will forever be altered. I can’t say the same for the boys involved.

  • Stephanie Swoll

    This will probably cause a maelstrom of hate comments, but we have to decide what the goal of our justice system is. Is it to punish the offender? Is it to rehabilitate offenders and help them to become productive members of our society?

    I vote for rehabilitation. I believe that there are very few people who are so damaged that they cannot change with proper help and soul searching. I don’t think these boys fall into that category. I sincerely hope that the reaction from this horrendous act has opened the eyes of these boys to the depravity of their acts and that they can take this into their hearts and grow into real men who cherish and protect the weak and vulnerable around them. This will be a long and painful process and those boys will have to deal with the guilt and shame that they feel from having raped and defiled a helpless girl for the rest of their lives.

    The victim will have to deal with the rape. It doesn’t mean that she will never be able to trust men. She can learn to separate vile acts committed by immoral boys from a loving relationship with an upstanding man. I know. I have been raped. She will also have to learn to value herself more and accept that she was not acting responsibly when she drank so much as to leave her comatose in an unsafe place. Trust me, she will spend as much time berating herself for that as she will re-living the rapes. She will have to forgive herself as well as her violators. We all must learn how to be moderate and read the atmosphere around us to keep ourselves safe. We all must be responsible for our actions.

    This does NOT excuse the boys’ behavior or mean that they should not be held accountable for it. Moral crime is not an equation that can be expressed as ‘perpetrator’s responsibility – victim’s responsibility = perpetrator’s guilt’. The boys are 100% responsible for their actions and 100% guilty. The girl acted irresponsibly, but not illegally nor immorally.

    I feel her pain. And I know that she can heal. From her mother’s comments, I am sure that she will have loving support.

    I feel the boys’ pain and shame. And I hope that they will get the support they need, not to forget what they have done, but to make this the turning point in their lives. The cataclysm that forced them to realize that their attitudes and actions have been heinous. And that they have to be re-formed. I hope they use this ‘punishment’ to learn how to live lives dedicated to respect for and protection of the weak. This is the only way they can hope to begin to forgive themselves for what they have done and become the men that they should be.

    • This is an excellent comment. The question of what is justice is a good one? In my family we have a situation where a mentally ill young man robbed a grocery store and has now spent a year in jail waiting for justice to take place. The mental health system failed him and failed his family. He did a stupid act on a whim. The difference with the rape — and this is where a huge question comes in — is the act of harm. Obviously the young woman was harmed (and I’m not saying she wasn’t stupid, but being stupid doesn’t give others the right to harm you.)
      This whole situation brings up more questions for us as a society than it answers.

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