12
October

When Kids Attack….How Rape Culture Desensitizes Our Youth

The term Rape Culture deals with the mentality of a group of people, institution, or society in which acts of sexual assault and violence is normalized, promoted, justified, downplayed, or excused due to the way gender, sex and sexuality are viewed. This attitude or belief system as it were generally begins with the leader(s) and trickles down and permeates throughout the ranks of their subordinates.  Now this is not to say that everyone wholeheartedly buys in, but it is through silent dissent that the culture is nurtured and evolves with minimal to no resistance.

Last week, 7 members of New Jersey’s Sayreville High School football team ranging in age between 15 and 17 were arrested for multiple counts including aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration.  The arrests came after 4 freshmen players came forward and reported that they had been assaulted by upper-classmen on the team in a sick and disturbing hazing ritual that involved anal penetration.  At least one of the boys said he was pinned down and assaulted right on the floor of what many athletes would agree is their sanctuary – the locker room.  The place where the tenets of manhood are supposedly taught and character is learned became their torture chamber….take a moment to breathe and absorb it.

How does this type of thing happen?  Who came up with the idea and determined that such action and behavior was in the least bit ok?  How long has this been going on and who all knew about it? These are all questions that I asked myself and questions I imagine you are asking yourself as well.  Without being able to talk to the players and students who attend the school now or those in past classes, I can only offer the following:

  • Hazing is not new.  It is a vile ritual that has gone on for 100s of years and the extent to which victims are violated, most of us will never know.  Those who carry out these often violent, heinous, and life threatening acts against others deem it some type of right of passage because it was done to them and so now they have the “right or privilege” of doing it to someone else.

Whomever started this brutal hazing ritual at Sayreville could have been a victim of sexual assault himself at a young age and took the hazing as an opportunity to pass on the brutality that was done to him.  Another possibility is that it was started by a young man who is simply a sociopath and had no conscience about inflicting such violence and humiliation onto another human being.  But how did so many other players get pulled in and offered their participation in something that many of them inherently had to know was wrong?

The answer is rooted in what can be equated to Groupthink, and it occurs when group members share a common fate resulting in tremendous pressure toward conformity.  In simple terms, if the person who originated this particular ritual was seen as the “leader” and all the other players felt he possessed an ability to affect their lives, be it on the field or off the field, they went along.  Make no mistake however, even though some of the players may have felt pressured to conform, they DO NOT get a pass.  They should be prosecuted and punished just like the ring-leader because at the end of the day, they made a choice and by carrying out these heinous acts, they too have become sex offenders!

So how did we get to the place where teens are sexually assaulting others when they had to have known it was wrong?  Aside from the obvious issue of needing to reinforce some core value concepts for our young people including being a leader and not a follower; doing the right thing in the face of adversity, and personal accountability for one’s actions, we also have to stop ignoring the issue of Rape Culture that has become so prevalent in our society.

Sexual violence against women, men, boys and girls is prevalent around the world! But somehow we, as a human race, have become desensitized to it.  Human trafficking and sexual exploitation continues at alarming rates and perpetrators have become even more brazen in their activities.  Women, men, boys, and girls are sold like produce at the local farmer’s market.  There is no regard for a person’s right to choose who is allowed to touch them or the right to decide when and with whom they engage in sexual activity.  People have become product and that product is imported and exported at ports all over the world.  People are sold to the highest bidder on street corners, in chat rooms, by mail, in hotel rooms on Super Bowl Sunday, and in conference rooms following the meetings of some of the world’s most influential businessmen and political figures and very few are even remotely aware, concerned, or willing to call it out and fight for the victims.

We are living in a society where women and girls can be sexually assaulted and we slut shame them if they had the audacity to have been sexually active prior to the assault, or if they had what others would consider too many sexual partners prior to the assault.  We look at what a young girl is wearing and suggest that she was sexually abused or assaulted because she dressed too provocatively and somehow caused her abuser/attacker to abandon self-control and develop a case of the “can’t help its.”  We will even say things like “she was going to have sex anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal.”  If a man or young boy is seen by other men as weak, effeminate, or even gay, they become prey and when sexually assaulted, they are humiliated and their sexual orientation is put on trial if they come forward.

Where is the outrage for the victim?  Who is calling attention to the fact that they were violated by someone who had no right to do that to them?  Why does the abuser get a slap on the wrist for their crime, if there is any punishment at all?  My belief is because there are so many pedophiles and sexual deviants in high places that make our laws, uphold the law and ultimately create ways to subvert the law. They literally have a secret society amongst themselves that gives one another a pass for their actions and behaviors while the rest of us are left to fend for our own safety.  They have created a mindset that numbs folk to the tragic levels of sexual assault and violence that is so pervasive in the land.  If we bring it full circle, it is this same numbing of society that a young man can sexually assault his teammate and feel it was simply a prank, horseplay, a stupid hazing ritual, or just silly guy stuff.

What is going on in New Jersey is just one of many stories where sexual assault was used to control or dominate another person.  It’s an all too familiar occurrence where no value is placed on a person’s right to decide what happens to their body.  Another case where sex is used as a weapon and not the beautiful act that God created it to be.  Therefore, parents have to start training their children early so they are already programmed to recognize sexual misconduct and sexual assault so by the time they see it for the first time, they can tell someone and not be party to a culture that normalizes, promotes, justifies or ignores it.  Adults have to stop burying their heads in the sand and acting like these things are not going on around us and call it out when we see it.  Later for acting as if it’s none of your business and being more concerned about appearances than the safety and well-being of another person.  Out with the talk of people being nice and how surprised we are that they could be so evil, and let’s open up the discussion about the warning signs we missed and what we need to do to be more vigilant about protecting our children and people in general from these monsters.

The truth is…..until we, as a people, stand united on the fact that no one has the right to strip another human being of their right to choose who touches them, we affirm that we have ACCEPTED rape and violence as just part of our culture – as just part of who we are as a human race.

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