Lessons from Steubenville

Before the recent rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, sparked a national discussion, I wrote a column about how the lack of proper sexual education contributes to the sexual assault problem in this country.

The case in Ohio demonstrates that we need more education about the issue of rape before we can have a worthwhile discussion of it.

Steubenville has dominated our attention, because it hits close to home, while simultaneously remaining too incomprehensible to have any productive dialogue about it.

Frankly, I have yet to see any of the arguments covering the case even approach reality. The controversy surround the media coverage of the rapists should infuriate any sensible person.

On one hand, there are those that not only blame the victim, but defend the perpetrators.

On the other hand, I fear anyone attempting to discuss the rapists as failed human beings rather than evil monsters would be accused of defending their actions or minimizing their damage.

If there is one all-powerful demonstration of the horrible effects of our failure to provide quality sex education, especially in regards to respecting one another's bodies, it is the number of people who have tried passing off the Steubenville case as not rape.

It's heartbreaking that many of my own friends have come to me after similar terrible incidents happened to them.

Most of them come armed with reasons why it wasn't really rape, because it happened at a party and not in a dark alleyway, and because the rapists were people they knew and not mask-wearing strangers.

I believe that what the boys in Steubenville did was evil and inexcusable, yet I doubt either boy woke up the morning of that party planning on raping anyone. I doubt that those boys even actively thought what they were doing was rape.

A country that is unwilling or unable to understand rape is not going to be capable of stopping rape.

We cannot honestly be surprised that so many rapes like this go unreported when, as I mentioned in my previous column, our society spends more time shaming girls for dressing scandalously than we do on teaching everyone to respect each other's bodies.

There is no easy solution to the country's rape problem. Our current strategy — shirking the responsibility of teaching our youths not to rape — is clearly failing us.
If we learn anything from the Steubenville case, I hope it is that we as a society understand that we allow these kinds of horrible incidents to occur, because we fail to understand them.

Right now we are raising the next generation of adults to be as ignorant as the last generation about sex and about rape.

Just as casual racism has been become significantly less common after we began to embrace and emphasize tolerance in our schools and at home, so too can our current rape culture begin to die out if we teach our children about these issues long before they can become victims or rapists.

Reach the columnist at Jacob.Evans@asu.edu or follow him at @JacobEvansSP

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