A Plea for Courage
There are three stories that have emerged in the news recently that should give us all cause for great alarm. Personally I was deeply disturbed by all three stories and what appears to be a growing trend among teenage boys and young men just entering their twenties.
Audrie Pott (15), Rehtaeh Parsons (17), and a third unnamed 16 year old girl, who is still alive were all victims of senseless, cowardly, and violent, gang rapes by their High School classmates. To add insult to injury the young males in all three cases photographed their victims and distributed the images via social media sites essentially celebrating their assaults on human dignity. In the case of Audrie Pott, the four young men who raped her, when she was passed out from drinking too much at a party, scrawled sexually explicit messages on her naked body.
Haunted by the attacks and embarrassed and humiliated by the photos both Audrie and Rehtaeh committed suicide. Suicide is a tragedy in and of itself, but we have heard other stories of teenagers taking their own lives. In fact suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults ages 15-25 according to the American Society of Suicidology. These stories are different in that they involve not only the tragedy of teenage suicide, but an egregious “group” violation of basic human dignity.
What I’m shaken by is the utter disregard for other human beings demonstrated by the boys accused of these crimes. I’m appalled that these boys would interpret an intoxicated, unconscious, peer as an invitation for sex. Perhaps more unsettling is the fact that these boys didn’t see their classmate as vulnerable and in need. Whatever happened to chivalry, and the notion that should I find someone in need, I do all that I can to help them, not take advantage of them, especially a female.
It’s the equivalent of looting a store of all it’s high-end merchandise in the wake of a devastating storm. Only this is far more heinous as it is the soul of a young woman who is of far greater value. Please don’t interpret my altruism as male chauvinism. I’m not suggesting that females are weaker than men or somehow inferior. I am saying that they can be more vulnerable and that violence against females young and old is a problem in our culture and has been for centuries.
A recent article by psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow provides some insight into why some of this generation have such a disregard for the vulnerable. He says, “Genital contact (along with brawling) is now America’s reflex antidote to losing contact. And the antidote is being peddled indiscriminately to kids, who are being dragged right out of childhood by a vicious undertow of eroticism fueled by tides of primal fear that we are not really living life at all, nor are we male, nor are we female, nor need we be troubled (just take Prozac), nor need we be distracted (just take Adderall), nor need we be anxious or bored (just take medical marijuana), nor are we responsible for ourselves (just apply for government entitlements).” (Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/03/11/seventeen-magazine-pushing-sex-to-12-year-olds/#ixzz2S35y33KI)
This “loss of contact,” I interpret as kids growing pretty callous, and cold toward others. There is no longer an intimacy with other human beings. We’re disconnected and thus see others as less human. Our constant online lives provide a false intimacy incapable of withstanding the weight of real life, flesh-and-blood, scenarios.
That is why I issue this plea to the young men as well as young ladies of this generation. Be courageous. Don’t go along with everything you see around you. Don’t assume that the others in your group know something that you don’t. No one ever has the right to strip someone of their dignity and then broadcast it to the world. Know that you have a right to challenge other’s behavior and if need be strike out on your own and do the right thing. Passivity must not rule the day.
Young ladies, please watch out for one another. If you see one of your peers getting in trouble it’s only decent to step in and protect them even if they have put themselves in a bad place.
Take these words to heart from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”