The Forgiveness of Villains

I want to spend this week bouncing around a topic that is close to my heart. However you want to call it, be it feminism, biblical manhood and womanhood, equal rights, gender issues, egalitarianism or complementarianism,the issue of where women fit into the church and society is an important one for me. Today I want to address the Stueubenville Rape Case and its indications on our culture’s views on men, women and their importance.

If any of you follow the news even remotely closely, you probably have heard of the Steubenville Rape Case. To break it down for you in case you haven’t heard, two football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were convicted of raping a 16 year old girl multiple times at a party last August. The case was settled today in the Ohio courtrooms. I’ll spare you the gritty details but if you want to read up on it, check out ABC’s coverage here.

There are many ways my heart is breaking for this case: the girl who was raped, the two young boys who will have this on their record. The pervasive influence of sports (especially football) on our society and the rampant reach of social media. There are so many issues I could address, but the one that breaks my heart the most is the duality of people’s responses.

Our culture often has a hero/villain mindset when it comes to crime. Murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. all receive a tag that marks them as evil. We choose to never view them as human beings but as single-minded evil-doers without a soul or a heart.

We also place blame on the victims of crimes: they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were asking for it, they aggravated someone. Especially with rape victims, if a women is slightly intoxicated or wearing certain clothes or talking in a certain way, then of course, by all means she’s asking to be raped, riiiight?

In the end, everyone gets blamed and no one gets healed.

In the case of the Steubenville rape, the response has been an interesting one to say the least. The two teenage rapists have become the victims of the this case in the media’s view. CNN reported on the story and instead of reporting about the victim, the reporter commented that the case “was incredibly emotional… to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as, as they believed their life fell apart.”

Last time I checked, watching a rapist get sentenced to prison didn’t make people emotional. In any other case, the crowd would be cheering for their sentencing. Not bemoaning their lost football careers and wishing the court had rules a different way.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not encouraging that we subject these two young men to the villain mentality. Even as a feminist, I’m a huge proponent that a lot of our problems could be fixed by men and women working together, and treating one another with respect. But we should not feel sorry for them. The need to take responsibility for their actions, even if they were the stars of the football team. Their bright futures were fully in their hands and they tossed it away by sticking their hands into a girl.

And this 16-year-old girl…Twitter is full of remarks on her. Some examples:

1

I don’t think any girl WANTS to get raped…

3

5

Most people would have raped a highly intoxicated girl? Huh…humanity is worse off then I thought.

This whole case makes me angry and sad and lost. How do we reconcile this situation? Sports and alcohol aside, these three teenagers’s lives are irrevocably changed. Two young boys are now labeled with the “sex-offender” label for the rest of their lives. When their 50 years old, something that they did when they were 17 will still haunt them. Football careers aside, they’ll be lucky if they can flip burgers.

And the girl. I can’t even imagine what she’s feeling. Yes, maybe she was feeling flirty and got herself into a situation that she should not have been in. And maybe now she’s beating herself up with guilt over this. Maybe she’s trying to find a way for her to understand what happened that night.

Because the truth is, there were multiple victims here. Three teenagers got themselves into a stupid situation. Add in raging social media and a football culture that is more like a religion, and you’ve got a situation that can only rob them of a healing experience. No matter where the three of them go, or what they do, the media will have this haunt them. Their chances for healing and reconciliation and grace will be grabbed away from them even as they try to reach for them.

Maybe I’m an optimist and hope that someday they will be able to move on, grow up, have families and jobs and be good, honest people. And they probably will be. They might even find the healing and redemption that Christ presents.

But will our society forgive? The girl or the two boys? I’m sad to say, that I don’t think so.
I would love to hear your comments.

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4 thoughts on “The Forgiveness of Villains

  1. You present a really balanced perspective here. I’m sorry that rape culture in our society blames the victim, rather than the men who perpetuated the crime. I’m sure the boys’ lives are indeed ruined for a stupid decision they made, but good grief, I can’t believe the way they are being treated as heroes, and the young woman is being vilified. Her life has been ruined, too, and there is no way she was “asking for it.”

  2. Well thought and well written Alexis.

    My thoughts: Society will need to prosecute and be just according to law of the land which we hope are as fair, humane and effective deterrents. On a human to human level, we need to be about showing a strong honest real non-blinking grace. Do they get to be out of jail: No. Do we have them over for dinner when they do: Yes. Do we give them the car keys and hope they date our friends or daughters: Probably not for a while. Do we co-journey as broken people who need love and redemption with them: Yes however that might look.

    They may be the next Moses, David or others I know. Deeply humbled, deeply touched by grace, deeply transformed and deeply real people who have tasted a scandalous grace that they would want to pass on. For my journey, I had a few who walked the dark waters with me while others ran for cover. In spite of the damage of my choices and the ugliness of being with me they stayed. Journeyed and helped me get a clear mind from the insanity of my choices and situation. I was guilty as charged. They knew it and with strength, courage and wisdom stayed anyway. They saved my life. They helped me begin to redeem the brokeness in me. It undoes nothing. it does something greater. Redeems it.

    Your father taught me the meaning of ‘έχει τελειώσει’ many years ago and gave me a mini sermon on its implications and meaning. Imagine that! It was in a pizza truck doing rounds. He changed my life that day. Our ‘stuff’ is on the cross and dealt with. James says clearly that ‘mercy triumphs over justice”. I am betting my life on that.

    Compassion for the perpetrator in no way deters from compassion and concern or rallied effort for the victim and in no way deters from their coming under the laws of a civilized society. Everyone’s story needs redemption.

    Your writing touched me today.

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