Vanderbilt rape trial: Let’s skip the mock outrage

Vanderbilt Rape CaseIt is at times like these, when a very tragic case comes to light, that the finger pointing, the agendas and the pompous crawl out from their usual cubby holes. When the bluff and bluster subsides, we are right back to where we have started. Nothing is gained. Nothing changes. Just a lot of hot air and “outrage.” I propose a different way.

On January 28, 2015, defendants Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, former football players at Vanderbilt University were found guilty of multiple counts of rape against a woman who was unconscious from alcohol. This occurred on June 23, 2013. Other members of the team also participated and they will be brought to trial at a later date. Every one of them, any one of them, could have stopped it. No one did.

In an article appearing in USA TODAY (January 28, 2015) entitled: “Vanderbilt rape trial: Defendants found guilty on all charges,” we are told:

“Batey, whose 21st birthday was Tuesday, did not visibly react. But his family members — his mother and uncles and cousins, who filled two rows of court benches — broke into sobs. Vandenburg, 21, shook his head after the foreman read: ‘Count 1, we find Mr. Vandenburg guilty of aggravated rape.’ His father, Rob Vandenburg, yelled out into the courtroom, later wiping his eyes with a scarf. ‘That is terrible,’ he said. His grief nearly muted the foreman, who continued reading verdicts. All were guilty.”

I am making a decision to not go into graphic detail about the rape. There are more than enough details on the internet. The young woman was violated physically and with objects. She was violated vaginally and anally. While the violence was occurring the “men” took pictures on their cell phones amidst cheering and celebration.

At the trial, the victim stated the following to the jury:

“You are my heroes and I am so proud of and grateful for each of you…I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame.”

I want to relate one more quotation from the article by District Attorney Glenn Funk:

“This case gives our entire community an opportunity to talk to each other and to our children, especially to our boys, about the way we treat women, both with our actions and with our words. No one deserves to be violated. Further, if you see someone who is being sexually assaulted, the right thing to do is to report it and try and get the person some help.”

I have no doubt that the perpetrators of this crime came from good homes and from loving families. It was obvious that at the trial the families were overcome with emotion. To be a parent, and to hear that the young man you raised may go to jail for years, perhaps decades, is crushing.

I am not at all forgetting about the victim. Her emotional scars will run very deep and I pray she will find peace within herself and the strength to move on and to learn to trust and to love. But…

Who is talking to boys and to young men?

The young men who committed this crime are not victims (though some idiots will defend them), but they are also not monsters. I believe with all of my heart that in many cases society is no longer raising boys to be men. This is hardly an original thought; many psychologists, social workers and teachers know this to be true. “Heroes” to many young boys are bad-boy athletes, musicians who objectify women and violent actors. It is not enough. They need strong role models who care about them.

When many of these young men start to play varsity and then collegiate sports, they sometimes carry with them the images of popular culture that far too often demeans women, demeans “decent men,” and anyone who in their minds is “different.”

Please hear me clearly. These are NOT blanket generalizations. However, if you get enough young men together who have not had strong male or female role models in their lives, mix it with alcohol and a driven team mentality, tragedies like this can and do occur. I fear what happened to the victim in this case is repeated far too often and goes un-reported far too often as well.

There is another way

When I talk to young men in a team setting about making good choices and the consequences of making bad decisions, I do not sugar-coat a damn thing. I won’t coddle them. I talk to them like men. For some, it may be the first time in years anyone has tried to reach them in that way.

When I was younger I made some bad decisions and it cost me family members, friends, business associates, income and time. Yes, “I did” some jail time. I rebuilt my life and devoted it to teaching ethics and sports ethics. I am passionate about helping athletes, both men and women, from making awful mistakes.

Could the rape, the humiliation, the physical pain and the anguish of this young woman have been avoided through Sports Ethics training? I believe so. I believe in the very least, one or two of the young men could have had the courage to say, “Stop!” No one said it. No one committing that crime had been taught the right way.

What a waste of young lives.

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