Sharing the Trauma: Convictions in the Steubenville Rape Trial

17 Mar

As I read about the convictions of the two teenage boys in the Steubenville rape trial, I’m filled with sorrow, relief, and appreciation. I am inspired by the sixteen year-old girl who after months of being pilloried in her community, on social media, and in the national news, faced her assailants in court and testified for two hours about her ordeal; I doubt they would have been convicted otherwise, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for her bravery and for what her actions have done for other victims of sexual assault.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a great article about the reactions this case has stirred in sexual assault survivors. So many people’s trauma has been awoken by this case. I couldn’t bring myself to completely read many of the articles about it, and broke down crying more than once as I learned about not only the cruel brutality exhibited by these boys, but of the complicity of her classmates who saw a young girl’s victimization as sport and the adults who held her responsible  because she had the audacity to drink alcohol and “boys will be boys.” An individual’s cruelty is one thing, but the social acceptance and support of it, the willingness of adults and the media to excuse the perpetrators and blame the victim, are more than I can bear, in part because it hits so close to home; when I was fourteen, my father told me that I shouldn’t hold someone accountable for what he did because he was from another culture where such behavior was accepted.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call that we are not so different from India, that we obviously have a lot of work to do to educate our children, peers, and ourselves about the ramifications of sexual assault and what constitutes consent. I pray that that sixteen year-old girl achieves a measure of peace after this nightmare. I pray that her assailants come to appreciate what they did and use their experience to educate others. And I pray for the strength of all of us who understand too well what she’s gone through. Take care of yourselves: don’t isolate when your trauma resurfaces. Reach out to friends and resources–a list of hotlines and organizations appears at the bottom of the article. Remember that by working through our trauma towards healing, we make it easier for others who’ve been victimized to realize that it’s not their fault, that they can reclaim their lives, and that they are not alone.

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