Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One Case is Too Many

Not that it was planned this way but oddly enough my last post was about teenagers and so is this one.  I think this one will be far more important though.  At least I hope so.

It's almost always the same exact story:

Underage Girl goes to a party (usually with friends).
There is alcohol served at the party.
Girl and friends start drinking.
Girls get drunk.
Boys are there too, drinking/getting drunk.
Boys get aggressive.
Girl gets sexually assaulted.
Other party-goers take pics/videos with their phones.
Pics get posted/sent/shared/reposted.
Girl is devastated/humiliated/harassed.
Girl seeks help and/or sometimes can't handle it.
Girl takes her own life.
Girl's family is devastated.

I can't even count how many stories I've read in the news in the last few years where this has taken place.  The cases don't always end in suicide but many of them do.  The ones that don't, end up with the girl being harassed, bullied, humiliated, mocked, threatened, etc.  Often the family will move to protect her and help her start over but that doesn't always help.

At the core of it, this isn't a "new" thing.  Drunk teenage boys and drunk teenage girls have never been a good mix.  Bad things happen when young people get drunk.  It's just the end result of a really bad choice.  Granted, bad things don't always happen when boys and girls get drunk, but when there is alcohol in the mix, the chances go through the roof.  Inhibitions are lowered, rational, critical thinking and personal responsibility is out the window, and things happen that shouldn't happen. (And in case anyone questions that I might be picking on teenagers, I assure you the exact same thing happens to mature adults when they get drunk.  It's just the way alcohol works on the brain, no matter the age).

The only "new" part of this is, the whole picture taking/video recording and sharing it online which only serves to magnify and snowball the entire humiliating episode into a brutally painful, seemingly neverending avalanche of heartache for the girl.  Truthfully, I cannot wrap my head around that one.  I mean, seriously.  You're at a party, you see someone being sexually assaulted and you... stop and take pictures? WHAT?  Who raised these people, Charles Manson and his wife Mrs. PsychoPants?  Maybe that's unfair, maybe the picture taker's parents are just as horrified as anyone else when they find out their kids took pics of a rape at a party.  Maybe there's something else at work here that completely undermines every good value these parents tried to instill in their kids.  I'd like to give these parents the benefit of the doubt.  I'd like to believe it's only a handful of deranged, immoral, no responsibility parents out there, and they are not in the majority, producing these kinds of people.

So then, what's the solution to all this?  How do we empower our kids (your kids, my kids, the neighbor's kids, their friends, our friend's kids - because sadly - this is who it's happening to, and being done by as well) to stop this?  Mercifully, none of my kids have ever been in this situation (nor have I) but there are some things that certainly can be done by everyone involved to make sure there's never another instance of this, ever.  The only question is, will they be done?  Probably not. but maybe someone reading will take it to heart and maybe what I have to say (I know, I'm a mom, what do I know?) will help someone. I certainly hope so.

GIRLS

Girls, know this first: I'm a mom to 6 girls.  Even being a mom to 1 girl makes a mother feel super-protective and want to shield her from any kind of pain or harm.  I have that times 6.  I want all my girls to grow up strong, independent and honorable - and some of them already have, since some are already adults.  Some are still teenagers at home though, just like the teenage girls in the news articles we all hear about.

If there is one thing I could say to you, to help you prevent this kind of thing from ever happening to you, that would be to honor yourself enough, respect yourself enough, that you would never dream of putting yourself into a risky situation and assume everyone else is going to respect and honor you as well.  It will NOT happen.  There are people out there in this world (some in your school, some you are casual acquaintances with) who are quite capable of taking advantage of someone because they feel like it, and have the opportunity.  Don't ever give anyone that opportunity, because eventually, someone will take it.  It's just the world we live in.

Of course as a Christian mom I would also say don't drink at parties (and hope you'd realize you can have fun without drinking) but I don't live in a led mine.  Underage drinking at parties happens.  It probably always has, and always will.  So has rape.  One doesn't automatically lead to the other, but the drinking is definitely risky behavior and your honor is NOT worth that risk. Is it?

BOYS

Boys, the first thing I want you to know is that there are girls out there literally and genuinely waiting for an awesome guy to meet.  One that respects people, gets along with people, is well-mannered, honest, and... well yes, cute too. Being cute doesn't hurt but it only goes so far.  Here's the thing: YOU can be that guy.  You can be the guy who everyone has a good opinion of, people trust, rely on, and are just plain happy to know you.  There's a catch though, and the catch is, you have to honor yourself and respect yourself enough to want to become that guy. Take care of yourself, show respect to others, offer a hand when help is needed in whatever way.  If you go to a party and there's alcohol, please, for your sake leave it alone.  Yes, be "that guy that didn't drink".  You know all those "raging hormones" grown ups talk about in teenagers? Mix those with alcohol and you become a beast that you'll be ashamed of for the rest of your life.  It's like throwing gas on a fire, literally.

You know that risky behavior I mentioned in the section above for the girls?  The same applies to you but in different ways.  If you engage in this kind of behavior and expect there will be no consequences for drinking and throwing gas on the fire, talk to the boys from Steubenville and see if they'll agree with you. I can almost guarantee you they wish they would have done things differently that night.

I have an almost-teenaged son and my hope for him is that he does become "that guy".  The guy everyone likes, the guy people trust, rely on, respect, and enjoy knowing.  He loves God, respects himself and respects others so... he's well on his way.  He makes me and his dad, very proud.  Some day he's going to make a fine husband and one his wife and kids will also be proud of.

PARTY-GOERS/FRIENDS

Okay kids, you're at a party, there's drinking, one of the girls is clearly wasted, acting like... well, you know. She's drunk, and drunk people do some pretty stupid things. Then some of the guys, also wasted, start saying things, then doing things with her.  What do you do?

a.) leave the room and get another drink
b.) laugh and watch
c.) take pics with your phones and start sharing them with friends
d.) think "wow, I'm glad I'm not her"

The correct answer is... NONE OF THE ABOVE.  Because, she needs your help and so do those boys.  The alcohol in their systems is like poison and if someone doesn't stop what's about to happen, it's going to destroy her, and them, for the rest of their lives. None of them are thinking straight, and they all literally need someone to help them, right at that moment.

Do whatever it takes to break it up.  Yell, grab someone, pull her outside, whatever it takes.  If need be, get your phone out and call 911, I don't care if they are your friends.  Whatever it takes to be part of the solution, instead of the problem.  Yes, if you do nothing, or worse, if you egg it on, you are just as much to blame as the ones sexually assaulting that girl.  Don't be that person, be the kind of people your parents would be proud of, instead of humiliated by because they found out the pictures came from your phone.  It isn't funny, it's destroying someone's life.

If, unfortunately it wasn't broken up, pics were taken and shared - and you get one, don't share it.  Instead, go directly to your parents or another adult you can trust.  If someone raped your little sister at a party, you wouldn't share the pics, would you?  Didn't think so.  Do whatever you can to stand up for doing the right thing, instead of being part of this ugly mess.

Please know, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive solution to a very vile problem. Just some thoughts off the top of my head.  I'm just a mom, who used to be a teenager, that went to the same kinds of parties where teenagers get drunk.  Thankfully, this never happened to anyone I ever knew, but it's happened one too many times.