On this week's Parenting With Playdate Planet radio show, I talked with Mike Dormitz, founder of the Date Safe Project, about what parents can do to help their children make smart sexual choices. This show is particularly timely given the recent verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial where two young men were convicted of sexually assaulting a high school girl. There's been a lot of attention on social media to the reporting subsequent to the verdict that focused on the tragic consequences for the convicted defendants who were described as good students with a lot of potential.
I agree with those who find this media coverage of the Stebenville conviction disturbing. The focus should not be on the perpetrators' lost promise, but the damage done to the victim herself and to women and girls at large. We must find a way to reverse the horrific rape statistics in this country. But, in reading various Facebook comments the past few days, I get the sense that people think that the two young men who committed these heinous acts are horrible kids. And that's where I disagree. I don't know these boys, and they might be bad apples, but it's also quite possible that these were nice kids who committed horrible acts. Teenagers' brains are still growing and developing. They are more impulsive and they can make extremely bad choices, especially when bolstered, like these football players were, by false adulation and encouraged by peer pressure. Mike Dormitz, whose mission to address sexual violence was sparked by the rape of his sister, also believes that good kids can commit sexual assault.
I'm not sure that we help the cause by believing that this sort of crime is only committed by somebody else's bad kid. The statistics suggest that this is a much broader problem. 1 out of 6 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. 38 percent of female rape victims were raped between the ages of 14 and 17. Girls ages 16 - 19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. If we stick our heads in the sand and assume that only bad kids born to bad parents are committing these crimes, this problem will not end. We all need to do a better job educating our boys and girls about sexual decision-making and what constitutes sexual assault. Otherwise, some of us good parents of good boys could end up learning a hard lesson too late.