Torres: My rape, my reality and the Steubenville rape caseWritten by Julia Torres | | firstname.lastname@example.org
At 9 years old, I was abducted and raped by a man claiming to be a police officer who told me he needed my “help” finding an old lady’s dog. Just 500 yards away from my family’s apartment, this man forced me into the filthy basement of a nearby tenement and stole my virginity. By the grace of God, he chose to release me afterward but not without threatening my life if I ever told anyone what he’d done. In a dazed state, I went home and immediately took a bath at 5 o’clock in the afternoon — with the adults present in my home who didn’t seem to notice my odd behavior or that I seemed different. As time went on, none of the adults in my life seemed to notice I was in a traumatized state.
It was when I became a parent that I realized I felt as angry toward the grown-ups in my life who’d let me down by not protecting me as I felt for my attacker. It is unspoken human code that has us all believing it’s the adult’s responsibility to protect the child.
In the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case, not a single adult has been held lawfully accountable — not the parents who should have been supervising teen parties where alcohol was present, not the parents of the victim who were clearly not monitoring their daughter’s intake, not the parents of the high school football stars who seemingly held such a low disregard for women and not even the high school principal, the football coaches, the teachers or the other adults who felt it wasn’t their place to speak up.
While the lives of the 16-year-old victim and her two male underage attackers are irreparably shattered following the dramatic court case and verdict in Steubenville, what have we really taught our children? That while there are appropriate laws on the books about good touch and bad touch, apparently it’s OK as an underage minor to drink yourself into oblivion — despite the efforts of your friends who tried to stop you — and that whatever dangerous choices you made that night won’t be scrutinized to the same standard?
I agree with the strictest definition that “rape is rape and no means no.” But, I also believe a better court decision could have been handed down, including a requirement that the female involved attend an alcohol treatment facility. Otherwise, we’ve missed a crucial teachable moment that could save more lives.
Let this be a cautionary tale for communities and school systems everywhere that should proactively review the Steubenville scenario to help them stave off such future incidents. Let us learn from this tragedy by taking a long hard look at the mixed messages we’re giving our children, especially in affluent communities like the one I live in. As an outspoken parent — disinvited from my local school system’s community forum because I was too direct — I’ve witnessed the very destructive behavior of complacent adults who allow their children (and their children’s underage friends without checking first with the other parents) to abuse alcohol and other substances within their homes because, they say, “it’s safer.”
My community is no different from Steubenville and thus, if we continue to shirk our adult responsibilities of adequately monitoring our children it’s just a matter of time before a more heinous infraction occurs. Frankly, every city, town and neighborhood is just one incident away from disastrous consequences when these random acts of violence occur and forever sully the name of the place you call home. Within an instant, the actions of unsupervised children can wreak havoc with your property values, your safety and your peace of mind. We adults must be honest with ourselves and admit that we need to find a way to be better role models for our children.
When I was raped, I was not drunk and unconscious and so I remember every gritty detail, resulting in the grave disappointment in and irreparable detachment I subsequently felt from the adults in my life who didn’t protect me. I wonder how the Steubenville victim is processing her experience. Who does she blame? Is she angry at her parents who didn’t protect her? Is she angry at herself?
Ultimately, rape is rape — a violent and criminal act with which another person violates your body, your mind and your soul against your will and without your consent. Grossly under-reported, women often don’t report the crime because of the fear, shame and self-loathing that holds them hostage. For so many years, I spent my life on high alert, distracted because I was always checking over my shoulder to see if my rapist was in the vicinity.
It was some 35 years later, after intensive counseling, that I was finally able to summon the will to face my fears. It is an indescribable relief to now be able to share my story publicly, with the confidence that continual healing is my reward.
I am now also a member of the nation’s Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (R.A.I.N.N.) speakers’ bureau and encourage you to visit its website at www.rainn.org or call 1 800 656-HOPE (4673) for more information on how you can help.
While we can’t always prevent random acts of violence, as adults we must do a better job of protecting our children.