"Nicely Done Judge. #Steubenville" was how I started my Sunday morning, after reading reports (and watching videos) as Judge Thomas Lipps rendered his guilty verdict, without the assistance of a jury. As the country watched this case unfold, everyone formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of those two teenage boys, charged with rape, long before it ever went to trial. People had judgments about the famed Big Red Coach Saccoccia and his involvement (or lack there-of) and towards the town of Steubenville and its 'turn the other cheek' mentality (or as Traci Lords called it 'Stupidville' in a recent interview with Piers Morgan). Naysayers accused social media with influencing the witnesses and blowing this case out of proportion, in fact Time magazine boasted the headline: "Steubenville Rape Guilty Verdict: The Case that Social Media Won"; but it's the same social media that was instrumental in revealing the crimes against Jane Doe. And of course, we can't forget Jane Doe, the victim, hearing rumors of how she has been ostracized from her friends and community because of her unfavorable accusations against her fellow classmates and local star athletes.
So much blame. So much commentary from armchair detectives all across the globe, but how many of us turned the mirror around on ourselves? How many of us had an a-ha moment throughout the last few months and chose to talk to our kids about rape and sexual assault, the dangers of over-indulging in alcohol, the permanency of the internet, or reinforcing the far fetched notion of "do unto others...." -- how many of us did that?
I don't know about the culture in the city of Steubenville, other than what I have read of course, but what I do know is that the concept of teen violence, sexual assault, alcohol and drug abuse amongst our youth, and the lack of regard for each other, is not unique to the small steel town in Ohio. It's an epidemic across our country and it has to be stopped.
It is not the first time that we have seen a teen produced video pop up on YouTube of kids violating each other for pure enjoyment, or by adults for that matter; rather than call 911 as they watched someone get pushed into the subway, they hit record. This is our culture now -- every move we make is subject to being published online for the world to witness. Morality has been replaced by "likes" and "views." I mean, my god, we put the Kardashians on every cover, of every magazine, giving them more air time than the newly elected Pope ... and why? Because way back when, Kim Kardashian published a sex tape; we made her famous for having sex on camera and sharing it with the world! (And then naturally, years later Barbara Walters would feature them on her "Most Fascinating People" special). But we did that. We glorify and celebrate actions, void of decency and honor. We create this environment, this acceptance for crappy behavior and then expect our teens to behave differently. Why would we hope that our kids would treat their bodies, their hearts, their minds, let alone each other with respect, when it's fodder for the world and a premise for a future reality show?
What happened to us?
What happened to our sense of responsibility to our neighbors? Where did the expectation of being kind, courteous, gracious, human go? When did we put ratings and championships ahead of the safety of our kids, and the integrity of our future? When did we make it OK, to sit idly by and do nothing as our young people torment their peers?
What happened to us?
It's time to take some ownership for our part in all of this; to look at ourselves as a culture, as role models and challenge each other to behave in a way that demonstrates to our youth, that good gets more 'hits" than evil.
What if society said NO MORE violence, NO MORE intolerance, NO MORE rape, NO MORE excuses, NO MORE apathy?
What could we expect from our kids if we led by those examples?
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