As the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial proceeds and the lives of several teenagers are changed irreparably, the question arises, “How did an innocent teenage party end so tragically?”
The answer. It can happen anywhere… and it does more often than we know. This one became public.
It was a victory celebration after a high school football game-- fueled with underage drinking, out of control behavior, peer pressure. What started as a night of fun, ended with tragic consequences for all the youth involved. I wasn’t present that night, so I’ll leave the deliberations and the decisions to the jury. But two contributing factors are all too familiar to rape crisis advocates
Age: Teens and young adults are at increased risk of sexual violence. According to studies, 75- 83% female rape victims are under the age of 25.
Alcohol: Intoxication impairs judgment and the ability to protect oneself.
Alcohol is the most common ‘date rape
But let’s be clear… even if a victim was intoxicated,
the victim did not commit the crime and
the victim is not to blame for the rape! Especially among teens and young adults, alcohol use is frequently a factor in sexual assaults… both for victims and perpetrators. With teens, assaults often occur after partying with friends, either when an intoxicated victim is isolated from the group or when the victim is too drunk to consent to sex.
Yes, having sex with someone who is incapable of consent constitutes rape.
Sexual assaults in such circumstances often go unreported. Victims may have difficulty remembering the details of the assault or may feel shame and blame themselves. Thus the perpetrator is unpunished and may commit similar assaults in the future. Rape is one of the most underreported crimes, with the majority of assaults going unreported!
The Ohio incident is a tragedy… so many teenaged lives shattered. But think that couldn’t happen here in Saratoga County? Think again.
A 2011 survey by the Shenendehowa Community Coalition reports that 31% of Shen's high school seniors engage in binge drinking (well above the national average of 22%) and 48% of juniors and seniors reported having gotten alcohol at a party. The good news is overall underage consumption rates declined from the 2008 survey. But almost a third of h.s. seniors binge drinking… that’s still too many opportunities for an incident just like that in Steubenville to happen.