The reports from Stubenville, Ohio strike the core of all parents’ fears and sensibilities. The terribly wrong and flawed events from the August 2012 evening showcased teenage rape, alcohol abuse, excessive partying, lies and cover ups.
The atrocious behavior of these teens feels so far away, but I sadly argue that they are not so distant and affect good families. Parents like to say, “It only happens at that school!” or “It is those kind of people!”, but those are convenient myths that bare little truth.
Many questions presented by the Stubenville Story often churn in my own head:
1. Why are 14-year-old and 15-year-old girls and boys going to parties with juniors and seniors who (while we all acknowledge it is illegal) are drinking and smoking pot? Are parents not capable of saying, “No” to their young teens? Our role as parents is to educate our children and give them the tools to navigate their social existence, but freshmen and even sophomores are too young to embark on these journey’s alone. My girlfriend likens this to – Parents throwing their babies into the pool before they have given them swim lessons.
2. Why are parents allowing for these parties at their houses? Some parents argue: ‘Kids will party anyways so they might as well in my house where it is safe.’ (Quite oxymoronic!) Many parents at the homes where parties take place adopt attitudes – “If I don’t not see it, I cannot do anything about it” – Hello Stubenville! Do these adults not realize that they are liable for illegal drinking and drugs on their property or that they are responsible for teens who drive away from their homes intoxicated?
3. Why are popular teenage boys (i.e star football players) entitled to behave inappropriately? While most parents I know educate their sons to be respectful of girls, our society does not always uphold these basic values – Hello Kobe Bryant in a Colorado Hotel! Instilling values and morals in our children when media norms are distorted, makes the role of parenting feel like Sisyphus pushing the bolder up the steep mountain.
4. Are teens so insecure that they have to drink so much and feel so little amongst their peers? We cannot blame social media alone for this one, but it certainly amplifies and accelerates the pressures teens feel to partake. Most adults remember the first time they drank too much, but the picture of the young girl being dragged around like a lifeless mannequin and then taken advantage of is a more deep and disturbing level. She drank so much that she remembered nothing and only learned about what happened to her via social media. When interviewed, other teens from that party simply acknowledged that excessive drinking was the norm.
5. How is it that not one teen who witnessed the abuse did not call 911? That night, the girl’s friend claimed she told her to stop drinking and not go with the boys, but she did nothing to stop the abuse. Instead of coming to her rescue, her peers took pleasure in capturing the debauchery on their phones before spreading it on YouTube. No one even anonymously tried to help her by calling 911.
There are many more questions and no simple answers. Do you lock your kid in the house til he is 21? Not reasonable? Do you put an ankle monitor on your teen? Perhaps? Do you pick up your teen from the party and give her a close hug (and a good sniff) when she gets home? Yes. Do you keep talking with your teen til you are blue in the face? Yes.
When I spoke with my teen about Stubenville, we talked about how back in the day (before cell phones), this story could have been hushed: the boys could have covered things up and the girl who was completely unconscious would have remembered nothing on her own. I spoke to my teen about all the questions I presented in this Post. We had a great conversation. One point that really hit home was that we live in a time where everything is being recorded and sooner than later, kids will shoot photos of 9th graders at parties (the same ones who had tell their parents they did not drink or smoke) and spread them on social media. Perhaps the photographer will be anonymous, but the acts will be recorded for the world to see, including for (1) their peers to ‘like’; (2) their parents and friends’ parents to judge; (3) their teachers and coaches to witness; and shortly (4) their college choices to judge them on this one dimension of their student life!