Everything has changed in the small town of Stubenville, OH. Life will never be the same for the approximately 18,659 residents.
August 11/12, 2012 was like many nights in “Small Town America.” High school kids were partying. Alcohol was present. And almost every teenager was in possession of a smartphone. This particular night a 16 year old girl, from a neighboring town, became incapacitated due to her large consumption of alcohol. Instead of being concerned, fellow partygoers stood by and watched as the young lady was victimized. Over a six hour span, the young lady was transported from party to party where she was photographed nude and semi-nude, sexually assaulted and ultimately raped by two of her peers. Unbeknownst to the young victim, she had quickly become the “talk of the town.”
In an age where social media dominates how we find out about news, react to news, share information with family and friends , it comes as no surprise that social media was front and center in this case. When the victim finally awakened, she had no recollection of what had transpired. The only thing she knew is that when she awoke, she was missing her underwear, shoes, earrings and phone. However, the young lady would quickly learn of the disgusting acts that had taken place, thanks to social media. There were photographs on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. There were videos on YouTube. There were text messages exchanged between the assailants, bystanders and even the victim. Instead of keeping quiet, like a lot of rape victims do, this brave victim went to the police to report what happened. Instead of there being an outpouring of support, the victim was criticized, ostracized and ridiculed. There were people blaming the victim for the rape. There were people who were mad at the victim for going to police about the rape. Perhaps most disgusting of all, there were people who were mad at the victim for coming forward because it casted a negative light on the football team,which the assailants were members of, and the town.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! A young lady was RAPED and all you care about is the potential backlash that will fall on the football team. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! The more people from Stubenville began to speak out, the more I began to understand why so many of the kids did not see anything wrong with what had taken place. It was obvious they were being raised in a culture where football was king. Couple that with a society which degrades and bashes women on a daily basis and you have a recipe for disaster. The fact that teenagers, whom know right from wrong, viewed what had taken place as a source of fun, entertainment and comedic relief is disgusting, saddening and heartbreaking. Their lack of moral convictions is downright disturbing. Many participated in the victimization and humiliation of the victim, indirectly, by standing around doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. No one called the cops. No one stood up for a victim who could not stand up for herself.
On March 17, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond were both convicted of rape. Mays was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention. Richmond received a one year sentence. To add insult to the victims mental and emotional injuries, many in the media chose to focus on how the “lives of two promising young men who had tons of potential has now been ruined.” EXCUSE ME? Actions have consequences. No one forced them to perform those heinous acts. Instead of focusing on them, the focus should be on the victim whose innocence was compromised in ways the majority of us will NEVER experience. For the rest of her life, her name will be synonymous with what took place that on August night.
A few days after the conviction, a couple of girls from Stubenville were arrested for communicating threats against the victim via Twitter. I guess these girls did not learn anything from the trial. There are so many things that need to be addressed as a result of this situation that it leaves my head spinning. Where are we as a society going wrong when our youth think it is perfectly ok for a young lady to be raped? Where are we as a society going wrong when our beloved football teams reputation is more important of than that of a 16 year old victim? Where are we as a society going wrong when our youth live their life as if their actions do not have consequences?
Social media, in my opinion, is ruining the next generation. Our next generation is very much lacking when it comes to social skills and moral values, as a result. Social media gives them the opportunity daily to communicate in ways generations before them never could. If something happens they can tweet it in a matter of seconds and their tweet has the potential to reach millions of people across the globe, regardless if their intention was to do so or not. Therefore, there needs to be some type of balance and that starts at home. In order for the next generation to be effective, they need face to face interaction with peers. They need to be taught that they do not need to share EVERY thing that happens in their on Twitter and Facebook. They need to learn that women should be respected at all times. Let this serve as a wake-up call to us all.