An Angry Mother on Steubenville and Parenting

The Steubenville rape case is so offensive in so many ways I can’t even begin to tackle them all.

•  CNN and a number of other news outlets cast the rapists as victims;

•  Idiots who “don’t believe in rape” come out of the woodwork and spew their insanity;

•  Society follows the spectacle of the case for entertainment, but fails to take action about the culture of rape perpetuated by their demand for this amusement.

Yet there’s a missing component in this mess, just as there was in Columbine, Colorado years ago, just as there was in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Where are the parents and what the hell was going on BEFORE the rape?

I ask this knowing how very culpable the parents are. I’m guilty of failing my kids, and I learned it the hard way this past year.

How did this happen? I’m the mom who gave her kids books like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives in middle school, gave demonstrations of condom use (with fruits and vegetables and condoms, get your mind out of the gutter). I’ve had numerous, lengthy conversations with my kids about sexuality, from first sex to masturbation, to contraception and STDs. We’ve talked openly about bisexuality, transgender, and homosexuality; they’ve told their friends my door is open to any kid who has a problem about their sexual identity.

Some of these conversations also included discussions about other kids and their parents’ failures. At least one of my kids’ closest friends was sexually active as a junior in high school and her parents had NEVER had any discussion about sex with her, before she became active, and not for the rest of her high school tenure.

What? Are you fucking kidding me? was my initial reaction. How can parents these days trust public OR private schools to do an adequate job teaching their kids about sexuality, let alone contraception? How can parents stick their heads in the sand when there are so many misleading messages offered to kids over the internet as well as traditional media?

Take that “Don’t believe in rape” asshole linked above; how can parents not offer their own messages about rape and the nature of consent when that kind of toxic idiocy is being spewed? (And where in the hell did that idiot acquire his ignorant, poisonous attitude about rape? His parents?)

No fucking way should any parent assume that no news is good news, that what they have to say as parents will be ignored or discounted. In the absence of parental messaging on both values and laws, the morons will win.

As I said, I’m guilty of failing my kids. I know EXACTLY how big the hole is that parents should fill, even after very concerted, conscious efforts to fill that gap.

Last year during her first term at college, my daughter came home and dumped, frustrated and scared about events of the previous weekend at a fraternity party. She’d followed all the rules we’d discussed before: don’t accept open drinks, bring your own sealed beverages, have a buddy to get your back, don’t drive drunk, so on.

The gap, though, was education about dealing with the aftermath of nonconsensual sex. One of their female classmates got shitfaced (read: drank too much alcohol, drugging not ruled out) and was taken advantage of by a male classmate.

The immediate collective concern of a handful of female classmates was finding Plan B — trying to find it locally on a weekend at a nearby drugstore or major chain store was all they thought about.

I listened, sick to my stomach, disgusted with the perpetrator, with the girls, the fraternity, the school — but mostly with myself.

•  Not one of these girls thought about insisting their friend go to the emergency room.

•  Not one of these girls thought the victim should get tested for rohypnol or other drugs.

•  Not one of these girls thought about testing for STDs.

•  Not one of these girls thought this was a crime that should be reported.

I failed my daughter, I failed her classmates, I failed the victim; my daughter should have thought of these things when the crisis presented itself, and she didn’t because I had not coached her adequately on these subjects until it was too late.

Believe me, we’ve had many, MANY conversations here about the incident since then. My son is sick of this subject, but he now understands clearly that no means no, and no response means take the girl home. He won’t believe the crap Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” spews.

Some parents reading this may think to themselves that their religious beliefs preclude such discussions. Ri-ight. Well, I’m glad that poor drunken Christian girl at her first frat party had her faith to fall back on when her male classmate raped her. Check into reality: your daughter OR your son could be drugged and abused without their consent. How will your religious values help you respond to the possibility of physical or mental injury, STD exposure, reputation assassination via social media, let alone pregnancy?

And — God forbid — the worst case happens, how will you deal with the bullshit from people like Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” who believe your kid had it coming to them?

Does the pressure feel uncomfortable? Let’s face it, it’s overdue. Parents are too often left off the hook during horrors like Steubenville. Let me point to the Columbine High School Massacre and Crystal Falls’ failed high school as examples.

How did the parents of Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold not know their sons were stockpiling weapons in their homes, or were troubled?

In the case of Crystal Falls, how did the parents not realize that their kids were having problems en masse before they finished a single year of high school?

Why did the media fail to ask about the parents in either case? Note carefully this WaPo piece on Crystal Falls as it was typical of media coverage: the parents are not mentioned at all.

And now Steubenville.

Didn’t the convicted rapists ever learn from their parents that lack of consent means no consent? Or did they come to believe in the absence of adequate guidance that Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” is right? Weren’t these young men ever taught that taking advantage of someone who cannot speak for themselves is the farthest thing from being a man, is utterly reprehensible, and is criminal in the case of nonconsensual sex?

As for Mr. “Don’t believe in rape”: Blaming a victim — A CHILD who might have been doped — makes you among the lowest of low. Do you not understand that taking something personal without explicit permission is criminal and the victim shouldn’t be shamed? I’m pissed off enough about your malignant stupidity to hope someone tests your disgusting premise on you after doping your beverage at a party. You’ll have been asking for it, by your own definition.

Some people only learn the truth the hard way, when it becomes personal.

Don’t I know it.

UPDATE — 11:05 pm EDT — 

I’ve been told the website of Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” is now down or blank. Huh. Isn’t that interesting? I should have trusted my instincts and taken a snapshot of the site because it’s not archived, either. If you have a snapshot you can share, please drop a note in comments, thanks!

18 replies
  1. Effie says:

    As to where Michael Crook got his ideas, he started out in life as a Mormon, so take that as you will. Having been raised by those people, I can say with some confidence that Crook probably got the same education that I did: boys can do no wrong, women are property, and the slut should know better than to let her honor be stained like that.

    Being a girl, I was outraged by such lessons. Apparently Crook was a-ok with them.

  2. Rayne says:

    @Effie: I had that “women are chattel” mentality in mind when I said “…taking something personal without explicit permission is criminal and the victim shouldn’t be shamed.”

    I’m sure that asshole Crook (ha, how fitting) would pitch a hissy fit if something he owned on his person was stolen while he was attending a party.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “I don’t believe in rape.” Deserves what fraternities used to call the “I want it, I need it, I have to have it reward.” That motto used to be said in jest, as ironic, with the understanding that “it” was obtainable only rarely and always as a mixed blessing, a result tied with intended and unintended consequences – except by the fraternity brother who went on to become a tobacco lobbyist at age 22.

    Now it seems that the restraint-free power (“Is there any other kind?”) advocated by Mr. Cheney, Ollie North and John Brennan seems to be seeping, like drones and limitless detention, into domestic society.

    “I don’t believe in rape.” Is that optional, like believing in gravity, evolution or taxes? Or is it inevitable when we come to regard the likes of Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as they regard themselves: models of corporate and personal leadership, whose businesses (and their body parts) are too big to fail?

  4. Rayne says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: It bugs the living shit out of me that these young rapists likely had more respect for rules of sportsmanship, i.e., no late hitting, no unnecessary roughness, than for the rules of law that protect fellow humans.

    And it bugs me even more that the “hacker” who guessed at an AT&T URL received 41 months punishment while these two young rapists got their hands slapped with 24 months.

    AT&T will go on fat and sassy, and the rape victim will live in fear of death threats.

    Justice in America. Feh. I don’t think I believe in that anymore.

  5. Peterr says:

    Watching Anderson Cooper 360 tonight, I get the feeling that CNN heard from a lot of viewers about their earlier coverage. He was all over the rapists as rapists, not as poor victims themselves.

  6. Peterr says:

    Some parents reading this may think to themselves that their religious beliefs preclude such discussions.

    Some parents need to rethink their religious beliefs around sex if they think they can’t/shouldn’t talk about it.

    This kind of thinking would come as a great shock to the rabbis who included in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) discussions of sex ranging from the story of David and Bathsheba at the negative end to the Song of Songs at the positive end.

    For those who are interested . . .

    David’s lesson: having the husband of your mistress set up and killed in a military battle so you don’t have to worry about her showing up pregnant with your kid while he was in the field is a big no-no.

    Song of Songs’ lesson: consensual sex between committed partners is a good thing. A really, really good thing.

  7. P J Evans says:

    And who the hell supplied them with the alcohol, and why didn’t any of them get busted for DUI while they were hauling the girl around? Someone should have seen or heard them, since I doubt that they were silent and sneaky.
    (I’m assuming providing alcohol to minors is as illegal there as it is in California.)

  8. Rayne says:

    @P J Evans: I didn’t touch on the alcohol use because I was guilty of this as a kid, as were most of my friends. Of course the drinking age was 18 then, not 21 as it is in my state today, and we didn’t have curfews like we have now. We did make sure we had designated drivers or stayed overnight if we’d been drinking.

    I do wonder whether there were curfews in Steubenville and if they were violated as well. Our curfews here are staggered; a 16 year-old would be in violation after 10pm if not in company of a parent or guardian.

    And where were the parents of the kids who used social media to record the situation but failed to report it let alone intervene? What the fuck is going on with their parentiing that their kids failed to act appropriately when they saw a crime in progress?

    You know what else bothers me? The gross unfairness. I have to spend so much more time coaching my daughter to protect herself and her female friends against the utter failure of boys’/young mens’ parents to simply do their fucking jobs and tell their boys NO MEANS NO / DRUNK/DRUGGED MEANS NO.

    Bet the rapists’ parents were at every bloody sporting event and made sure they had all the sporting goods they needed, though. I’m sure they had their priorities straight. /snark

  9. P J Evans says:

    I lived in a place not too much different from Steubenville. The two things that were most important to almost everyone else were football and church (and football practice was never on Wednesday evening because church). When the football team gets special privileges because they’re the football team, it’s already a problem.

  10. P J Evans says:

    I wouldn’t call you a bad parent. (FWIW, my mother worried about all the stuff she’d done wrong as a parent, even past the age of 80.)

  11. Rayne says:

    @P J Evans: There are cases of rapes by college/university sports teams that go unreported for the same reason — communities have their priorities completely out of whack, placing sports above civics and democracy.

    I know that a midwestern major university’s sports team members committed multiple rapes. They were reported to campus police and promptly got buried by a lot of technicalities related to releasing information about students. The local city police and the state police were less than helpful about getting past these barriers, mostly because the cops are overwhelmingly male and pro-sports.

    The situation at PennState continues at other schools, I’m sure, only because of the sports-uber-alles mentality and the misogynistic attitude that reinforces it when the victims aren’t young boys but women.

  12. Peterr says:


    You mean like at Notre Dame?

    It’s an ugly story, with rape, suicide, defamation of the deceased, and protection for the perpetrators. Oh, and a climate so strong that other women who have been attacked since it took place have refused to even file a complaint in their cases, for fear of being treated like Lizzy.

  13. Arbusto says:

    We as a nation and maybe the human race seem to have lost whatever moral compass we were issued. I listend to Dave Zirin, The Nation sports columnest on Current TV with John Fugelsang (worth watching if you can stand cable news). Dave stated that while athletes comprise 6% of high school and college population, they represent 19% of sexual assults of said poplulation. Seems they get a pass from parents, community, cops, coaches, NCAA and school administrations. To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the enemy and we be fucked.

  14. Glenna Dunaway says:

    Actually, one of my reactions was to feel sorry for these guys. They really seem not to have understood that what they were doing was profoundly wrong. Before the Internet, we lived in a world where we could manage to be uninformed about the abuses of power, and that ignorance kept cultural standards of behavior a little higher. Now, kids all know that if our government wants something, it takes it; if a corporation wants something, it takes it; in sports, if you want the ball, you take it; money can buy the ruin of other people, and that’s acceptable; winning and getting are what matter, and pride, of all things, is based on the getting and is considered a good thing — look at any national political speech for a sickening dose of this. Yes, the brighter, more insightful kids will sort this out and be able to act counter-culturally. But the large number of kids now are likely to go into adulthood really not sure why or even if you shouldn’t just take what you want. And be proud that you did.

  15. Rayne says:

    @Glenna Dunaway: Really? You feel sorry for young men who:
    — have been taught all the intricate rules of multiple sports and likely watched innumerable programs where talking heads hammer on the ethics of the same;
    — have likely learned how to drive and have licenses to operate vehicles on public roadways after proving they understand traffic laws;
    — have already been exposed through education to the American government system several times through K-12 education;
    — have already been exposed through public media and sex ed to messaging about abstinence and STDs.

    Nope, I don’t buy it. These rapists’ parents are on the hook for failing to ensure their sons grokked the meaning of “lack of consent” and for not monitoring more closely what their minor children were doing, but these guys are old enough to have a basic understanding that that what they did was wrong. The entire community of minors who took photo/video evidence and shared it, as well as the minors who spread it, all understood the prurient and illicit nature of the act–it was the very prurience and its illicit nature that spurred the spread of the content.

    As a parent I know most kids are disturbed by the conflict between what they know to be the law, and what they see happening, particularly with regard to corporations’ takings. They know intrinsically that this conflict is wrong. The failure of adults to demand enforcement of the law doesn’t give youths carte blanche to do as they please. It’s at this very moment when these kids are so very conflicted by what they see that they must have clarity from adults.

    It’s the absence of condemnation combined with pity that encourages such behavior. We fail them when we don’t tell them what is wrong and why it’s wrong.

    Jeebus…by the same argument, Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and the Columbine killers should be pitied because they didn’t understand how profoundly wrong their actions were, because they saw adults and corporations do what they please.

    No. Just no.

  16. katie jensen says:

    Think of it this way. Men need to be educated about the difference between great consensual sex and rape. In great sex, both people are giving it their all. If access to a limp body is all that a man wants, it means he is getting off on control, not sex. Hes doing it because he can and that is the component turning him on. Control. If a guy wants to have sex with a drunk girl he is only a shade away from sex with a dead body. We have to educate both men and women that this kind of desire is nothing like sex. Our puritain days didnt help this much when women stopped having permission to enjoy sex. So i make this clear. It is every womans duty to enjoy sex and be a fully present partner. This is healthy and help with clarity. Wanting to “have sex with the unconcious” is sick, its not sex, its a lust for control and access over healthy intimacy and mutual enjoyment. We need to be making this distinction clear. To take this even further we need to understand that this same principle applies to prostitution where the women are held captive by addiction or pimps. That behavior is not sex. Men who crave it are craving power and access.

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