March 26, 2013

How “Teaching Men Not to Rape” Won't Prevent Another Steubenville

by Roland Hulme

Last week, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond were sentenced for the rape of 16-year-old “Jane Doe” at an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville, Ohio. In the aftermath of this horrific crime, pundits are calling on the country to “teach men not to rape” to prevent a repeat of this obscenity – but that message is utterly ridiculous.

But there is something the rest of us can do.

Perhaps what was most chilling about the night in Steubenville wasn’t the rape that Mays and Ma’Lik committed, but how dozens of onlookers were complicit in it.

Text messages, tweets and YouTube videos reveal that there were potentially dozens of people who saw this girl being manhandled and abused and did nothing about it. To me, those are the people who need to be “educated.”

In Sergei Bondarchuck’s adaption of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, the narrator solemnly warned: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That is what happened that night in Steubenville.

Dozens of onlookers – people who probably consider themselves “good” people, stood round and watched something wrong being done and did nothing to stop it. Text messages were sent to Ma’Lik and Mays warning them that what they were doing could get them in trouble, but no further action was taken after Mays blithely replied; “Nah, don’t worry.”

It’s one of the failings of human society, that large groups of people will stand idle while atrocities are committed. It’s what led to the election of Hitler, and the murder of the Jews in concentration camps. It’s what led to “Jane Doe” being raped and brutalized that night.

So if we want to teach men anything, it’s not to be one of those people.

I won’t “teach my sons not to rape” because they already know that rape is wrong. But as they grow up, I will teach them to take a stand when they witness something wrong being done – because if they don’t, they as guilty of the crime as the sociopathic young men who committed it.