19 March 2013

Misplaced Focus?

Recently, the television news station CNN has taken heat over its coverage of a rape trial in Ohio. Some people (really, a lot of people) have taken them to task over appearing to have "sympathy" for the two boys convicted of a rape and little concern for the victim.

The "sympathy' shown by CNN has been in the form of comments about how the future of the boys has been forever ruined, how the families are devastated and how the culture that raised them is tarnished.

I, for one, don't think this is "sympathy"; rather, a very potent (I hope) warning to others about just how easily one stupid action can tarnish your life forever.

Before I go on, let me unequivocally state the following, just to make sure I'm not misunderstood:

  • Rape is wrong
  • Sex without consent is rape
  • Being passed out is not consent
  • The boys are guilty and deserve far more punishment than they will ever get
  • The victim is not guilty of anything

However, these boys are (apparently) representative of a lot of male teenagers coddled in an "athletes can do no wrong" culture where they are never punished for anything they do wrong. Poor grades? No problem: we'll fix it. Underage drinking? No problem. Speeding ticket? No problem. Taking a little something from the store without paying? No problem. How hard is it to imagine these boys taking it even further, to something like "having sex with someone who is unconscious? No problem."

These boys apparently had no authority figures to teach them right from wrong. Not their parents, not their teachers, not their coaches and not (according to some reports in this case) the police officials. They had so little idea of the moral and legal issues involved that they posted their conduct on the internet using text messages and video footage. It was not posted by someone trying to demonstrate a crime. No, they posted it themselves.

There is probably no better time than now to focus on these boys and how their actions ruined their own lives. They will forever be branded sex offenders, they will not be able to get scholarships to college to play ball, they will probably not have good careers, good relationships, good families. The entirety of their lives has been brought down because of their own actions.

I hope other teenage boys see the tale of these two rapists repeated over and over and over. If other boys and men are similarly without figures of authority showing them right from wrong, perhaps (just perhaps) they will figure out that rape is wrong.

And if the tale of these two rapists stops just a single boy or man from raping a woman, then some good will have come out of this horrible series of events.

As for the victim, I can only hope she is able to move on at some point, to not let her life be similarly destroyed by the actions of others. I would think she would rather have little media focus on her right now, so she can start the process of rebuilding. I don't know how possible that is. I just hope so.

You can read more about the CNN backlash here.

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