I really don't want to write about the Steubenville horror, but I won't be able to think of anything else until I do, so here goes.
Lest I be accused of blaming the victim, let me say that if I had been the judge, I would have handed down much stiffer penalties to the rapists. And I hope that the grand jury metes out the punishment they deserve to the sneering bystanders, the coaches, and those who perpetuate the wrong-headed cult of sports and athletes. As for the victim's drunkenness, that no more excuses the rape than did the mentally deficient state of the girl who was raped by another gang of football players in Glen Ridge, New Jersey a few years ago.
Since the Steubenville story broke, there have been numerous accounts in the media of similar occurrences in analogous situations: fraternity parties, bars, post-game celebrations. Which leads me to wonder, what are we telling young girls as we send them out into the world? (What we are telling boys is another, and more appalling, story)
When girls are learning to drive, we warn them repeatedly about all the bad drivers out on the road: drivers who text while driving, drivers who fall asleep at the wheel, drunk drivers.... It would be great if we could tell our daughters, "Drive without a care, my dear, for nothing bad will happen to you." But that's not the way the world works, and so we teach them to drive sober and drive defensively.
On the other hand, many girls are launched into the roiling waters of adolescent social life without equivalent instruction. It would be nice to be able to say, "Go have fun! Do whatever you want and nobody will bother
you." But frat houses and bars and, apparently, people's basements are just as dangerous as the highway, and we need to teach girls to navigate them defensively, even if such instruction causes them to roll their eyes and mutter, "whatever!"
I don't think that it need take the joy out of going to parties for a young woman to be told that excessive alcohol consumption removes inhibitions and often makes people more aggressive. I don't think that it places an unfair onus on her to be taught that the first step in protecting herself is to drink cautiously and sparingly so she can remove herself in time from dangerous situations. This is not blaming the victim, but helping her to keep from becoming one.
I mentioned in another post my grandmother's advice never to trust a man with a nose on his face. It is overly misanthropic, so I've come up with another version: never trust a man with a drink in his hand, a weave in his walk and a roomful of buddies who are also drinking and weaving. If you are approached by such a person, do what you would do if you were driving and saw a car weaving all over the road--get out of the way. And whether you're driving or partying, for your own sake and that of your parents who are waiting up for you at home, stay sober, stay sober, stay sober.