I read this excellent piece on the arrogance of Steubenville, and while everyone should leave my blog and read the article, please come back to discuss the quote that stood out to me. (Parts of the quote are graphic and could be triggering)
At one point of the night of the incident, Westlake, who was sober, determined that his friend Mark Cole was too drunk to make a 10-minute drive home. At first, Cole refused to turn over his keys, claiming he could operate his Volkswagen Jetta just fine. Westlake was undeterred, though, eventually “tricking” Cole by waiting for him to relax and then forcibly seizing the keys.
Yet maybe a half-hour later, Westlake walked in on the girl, sprawled out naked in the middle of a basement floor. To her side was Mays, exposed and slapping his penis on the girl’s hip. Behind her was Richmond, who, Westlake said, was violating her with two fingers.
Westlake said goodbye to the guys and kept walking. A good friend with his eye on the safety of others just minutes before was suddenly unaware or unsure of what to do — or simply uncaring enough to do anything at all.
“Something has gotten in there that said, ‘OK, we need to prevent drinking and driving,’ ” Hanna [statewide director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence] said. “We need to take it to that level with preventing sexual assault.”
While so many aspects of of the Steubenville case are horrifying, the fact is rape and sexual assault occurs much too often in this country. Every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. in sexually assaulted. (source) How many of those victims weren’t helped by bystanders?
Friends don’t let friends rape.
I said no to an acquaintance who was attempting to take home my drunk friend and was told that I had the problem. I got laughed off by both, but I stood my ground and told him that he’s welcome to call her tomorrow. I’ve never thought that I was helping out the guy because I think any guy, who is sober enough to drive, taking home a woman, who is not sober enough to drive and didn’t come with him to the party, is gross. However, maybe I was.
A friend walked into a situation similar to the scene depicted in the quote and took the woman out as he yelled at the guys. He called me to walk the woman back to her dorm room, and I did. The following day, I checked in on her and offered my support for whatever she wanted to do. I didn’t give a crap about those two men from the party, but in focusing on helping her and putting the shame on them, maybe we did.
I was 22 and 19, respectively. I had people around me who cared about women’s rights, and I knew the consequences of rape so I was more supported and strengthened in my resolve. However, these weren’t the simple situations that classrooms, books and protests make them out to be. I didn’t feel particularly confident. It still feels awkward calling people out even on mundane issue. But it can also be life-changing and any friend on any side of the Steubenville rape case can see now.
Rape prevention is not going to start with women carrying guns or wearing longer dresses or the removal of football programs. It’s going to start with the idea that sexual assault is so commonplace each of us will have an opportunity to prevent it. Do we have the resolve to be that friend? Like taking away the keys of a drunk to not only save the driver’s life, but the lives of all those on the road, we have to protect those around us. The culture of driving drunk changed as more people stood up in basements and barrooms and demanded the keys. Each time we say, “That’s not okay,” people hear it and believe it.
Putting aside the Steubenville case, it’s easy to throw up our hands and say good men don’t rape and bad men do rape so there’s no point in speaking up unless it’s to arrest bad men. However, studies have shown that many boys and men fall into grayer area with misconceptions about women and a high acceptance of rape myth. And they are our friends and acquaintances whether we want to see it or not since over 1/3 of college-aged men admit to some degree of likelihood they would rape a woman if they wouldn’t get in trouble. (source) Are we going to assume that 35% of men should be in jail? Or do we, men and women, believe that through education, speaking out and stepping in, we are teaching what is acceptable, and in turn, reshape these men? This is how cultures become safer and healthier for everyone. Our words and actions will not stop every rapist, but I believe we will stop some and more easily convict those we don’t.
I never set out to help anyone besides the women who deserved to have a celebratory night not turn into a crime scene, but perhaps I did. Together, I believe our voices can transform not only what is acceptable, but actually change lives, if we use them when it matters most.