Hard Lessons at Steubenville High

2013-03-17T163340Z_1051399455_TM4E93H0X2Z01_RTRMADP_3_USA-CRIME-OHIOSteubenville High School’s star football players have certainly put their town on the map, but not for the reasons hopeful coaches and parents planned.

I, like many Americans I imagine, have had a difficult time forgetting the images that surfaced from this case. But many Americans, like me, need to wake up to the reality that rape culture is prevalent in our backyards. What’s worse, we’ve permitted this culture to thrive – whether by omission (not doing something when we should) or commission (doing something when we shouldn’t).

There are some horrible ironies found in the Steubenville case. I’m not even talking about the glaring lack of parental supervision. According to reports during this evening of wild partying, one boy – Westlake – determined that his friend was too drunk to drive home. Later on that evening, it was also Westlake who witnessed the rape taking place in a basement. If Westlake figured out a way to get his teammates to not drive drunk, then why didn’t he attempt to stop a sexual assault?

“It wasn’t violent,” explained teammate Evan Westlake when asked why he didn’t stop the two defendants as they abused a non-moving girl that Westlake knew to be highly intoxicated. “I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.” (Yahoo! Sports)

Sure, D.A.R.E. and other ‘Just Say No’ type programs have done a wonderful job educating the youth of America on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  But apparently we’ve gotten to the point where our high school football stars know it isn’t okay to drink and drive, but are in the gray when it comes to rape.

Is that a win?

Obviously not.

The Yahoo! Sports article I linked poignantly noted the factors that creates the sort of environment where people – a 16-year-old girl in this case – can be so carelessly taken advantage.

A culture of arrogance created a group mindset of debauchery and disrespect, of misplaced manhood and lost morality.

We have a difficult time imagining that minors – children, really – can be guilty of horrific atrocities. By reports, select Steubenville High School football players don’t think they’re all that bad, either.

Throughout this trial, the two defendants and a parade of friends who wound up mostly testifying against the defendants, expressed little understanding of rape – let alone common decency or respect for women. Despite the conviction, the defendants likely don’t view themselves as rapists, at least not the classic sense of a man hiding in the shadows.

What a tangled mess!

Things don’t have to be this way.

On a very practical level, there are tons of ways to bring about effective change that will do a world of good to many, many people. I know a fellow Berean who is a tireless advocate for human rights. Just yesterday, she wrote on her blog a handful of ways this attack could have been prevented. If you have compassion on the hurting and long to see justice, then I encourage you to get involved in advocacy efforts. Lord knows that our world can be shockingly unjust and we need people to take a stand for what’s right.

To drill a bit deeper, though, if you’re a Christian – as I am – the lasting solution is found in the person and work of Jesus. Advocacy is good, social action is great, but the Gospel of Jesus is what will permanently change hearts. Jesus humbles the proud and makes the selfish selfless. Christians have the joy to share this good news with the world! Yes, our world is terribly broken – as creation well knows – but Jesus came to mend the broken. And in Steubenville, OH, there are no doubt countless souls in desperate need of mending.

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