Rape is not a sport.
It's more than a little alarming that this needs to be expressed. But clearly, it does. For just days after the Steubenville rape verdict came in, another eerily reminiscent headline appeared, this time in Torrington, Connecticut.
Two Torrington High School football players stand accused of sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. Four others were suspended in a hazing scandal last fall that is still under investigation. One player, the team’s second-highest scorer last fall, was allowed to play even though the team’s coach knew he had been charged with felony robbery and assault.
School officials claim that the sexual assault charges against 18-year-olds Edgar Gonzalez and Joan Toribio, the hazing and other incidents are isolated problems and don’t signal a deeper issue with the culture of Torrington High School, its athletic programs or football team.
Athletic Director Mike McKenna said, “If you think there’s some wild band of athletes that are wandering around, then I think you’re mistaken.”
I don't think that anyone suggested that might be the problem. There is, however, a very clear problem with a rape culture in which the brutal assault of a 13-year-old child is not enough to get a player benched, much less kicked off the team. But if it that seemed bad, it got much worse for the victim. Not only did the school not take seriously this horrible attack, but the community decided that it was appropriate to victimize this child (and look, I have a 14-year-old. She may physically look like an adult, but her mind, her emotions, her psyche is still that of a developing child) by taunting her on social media:
Dozens of Torrington High School students have been discussing the case on Facebook and Twitter.
“I wanna know why there’s no punishment for young hoes,” asked “@asmedick.” That comment was reposted three times.
Twelve days after the alleged incident, “@AyooWilliam” tweeted, “You destroyed two people’s life.” Another responded, “I hope you got what you wanted.”
“Sticking up for a girl who wanted the D and then snitched? have a seat pleaseeee,” wrote “@ShelbyyKalinski.”
This is just flat out disgusting. Though I would like to be enraged by these classmates and their harassment and re-victimization of the victim, I also have to wonder that this attitude wasn't set by the way the adults around them responded to this case.
Before he was charged with sexual assault, [suspect] Gonzalez was facing felony robbery charges for allegedly jumping three 14-year-olds in March 2012.
He was allowed to play football this season, despite the charges.
Former football coach Coach Dan Dunaj told the Register Citizen that he was "doing something right" as a coach when he allowed Gonzalez to play.
"I reeled the kid in after that, and he walked the line," he said.
Dunaj resigned as head coach in January after several players on the team were suspended for hazing other players.
An update published just as I was completing this post. There are, in fact, two 13-year-old victims in separate but related incidents.
This notion of 'ruining lives' of rapists has to stop. There are already ruined lives here that are being dismissed and ignored. As long as we make excuses for violence and sexual assaults, as long as we blame the victim for being a victim, the lesson to not rape is not being taught. From a poignant blog post about the Steubenville rape verdict:
Do I, as a woman, feel bad about all the promising lives ruined? To be honest, not particularly. I think it takes courage to ruin a promising life, particularly when you’re operating within a culture that’s weighted in favour of all those rapists who have such promising lives ahead of them. I have huge admiration for the Steubenville survivor and hope she is aware that the world is neither her small town nor CNN. I hope she has a great life, a life far more promising than any that can be lived by so-called heroes who lack basic empathy and humanity. I hope she never feels her life is ruined; should we really care if those who attacked her currently feel that way about their own?