There is a lot of dialogue going around right now on the Steubenville case and I'm seeing a lot of shocked and angry comments piling up but not much that focuses on what we can do. What we need to do to diminish and hopefully someday end violence and rape.
Firstly, I think it is crucial we look at how we are raising children. Because the environment kids grow up in has a lasting impact on their behaviour for life. Instead of pointing fingers and laying blame we need to learn how be better mentors. Especially to kids who don't have adequate support.
Men... we really need more awesome, positive role models for boys. There are lots of you out there (trust me, I know… I work in a room full of you every day), rise up please and show boys what it means to be a man. A real man who's power isn't wrapped around causing pain to others.
Women, we must learn how to empower ourselves without raging against the patriarchy. When we do this, we immediately cause a divide, instead of building a bridge. I'm sorry, but men and women need to work together for there to be equality.
Teachers, coaches, mentors, community leaders, I encourage you to help by giving kids a voice. Let them write, let them draw, let them tell their stories without worry of judgement. Learn how to listen. Really listen. Not just to the words ... but also to the silence. When painful things come up follow through by taking it seriously. Incorporate sex education into curriculum that includes open dialogue in a supportive environment (with councillors present) about violence and sexual assault. Make sure you have the best resources available and on hand at all times.
Police, judges, lawyers, etc, I'm sorry but we need a serious overhaul of the justice and prison system. People must be held accountable for their actions (yes, even when they are "only 16") but we also must recognize that a punitive system of incarceration doesn't reduce people's likelihood to reoffend when they get out. We need to explore other options.
Politicians, stop relying on "tough on crime" platforms to get votes. It doesn't mean what it sounds like it means and people are confused. Refocus your energy on informing people about what things like "truth-in sentencing" and "mandatory minimums" actually mean, the impact these sentences have on peoples lives and the lives of all the people they encounter for the rest of their lives, most especially their children. Please, seriously consider funneling some of your tough on crime funding to programs that give kids safety and a sense of community. There are some pretty incredible programs out there, like The Academy of the Impossible, for example.
People, all of you, we really need to look at why the dialogue around
these issues is stifled. What are we afraid of? And how can we talk
about this stuff in a meaningful, impactful, lasting way.
I realize I'm only touching the tip of the iceberg here, there is so much more I'd like to say. But this is an issue very close to my heart and I felt it was important to put out there now.