Yeah, I’m weighing in on the ongoing scandal that is the kid that got drunk and decided that his illustrious and obvious stable future as an ivy leaguer with buckets of opportunity and privilege coming his way, he decided that was worth throwing away to become the most notorious sexual predator of 2016. That guy. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Because if not I don’t think you even know HOW to work a computer. The kid is everywhere.
This is for a few reasons other than the actions. The fact he was from a well-to-do family certainly plays a part, his Olympic swimming potential is way up there, but mostly it’s the well-crafted letters that he, the victim, and his family wrote to the judge that really makes this a sensational headline grabbing media fiasco.
Maybe it’s the switch that gets flipped the minute that you finally push your first-born into the world that makes me look at these types of cases with such a different perspective, but every time I see that kid’s face in my news feed, it terrifies me. Because people read the letters written by his friends and family and they yell and rage, “How dare they say nice things about a RAPIST?” They wonder how anyone could defend the actions of someone who so obviously is so morally bankrupt, so outrageously deficient in every way.
Me? I think they write what they know. They know a sweet kid. They know a swimmer that they have inside jokes with. They know a son that they taught to ride a bike. They know a friend that always remembers that they hate mushrooms on their pizza. They know the boy they conveyed in the letter because they didn’t know the rapist that is in their feed like mine, they know the person that they raised and grew up with.
That’s what terrifies me as a mother. Not all bad people are skinning cats in middle school or smearing REDRUM on the mirror before they can walk. Sometimes, some of the most atrocious things are committed by the most innocuous people. That kid did 100 things right in his short lifetime and had parents that were probably bragging about his achievements the week before…and now he’s a rapist. That kid had too much to drink and that’s who he is now. Forever and ever, amen. There is no good deed, no charity work, no turnaround of character that will ever take that label off of him. He is, now and forever, a rapist.
THAT is what terrifies me raising a son of my own.
Before you dust off the internet pitchforks, I beg of you to read on. I don’t think he deserves a lighter sentence because he was a “good kid” before this happened. I do not believe he should get a second chance to graduate magna cume laude because he was a boy scout and raised money for children’s cancer at a swim meet junior year (none of these are facts, just painting a picture here). No, I do not. In fact, I cannot believe that any judge in this day and age would give such a pathetic sentence to a known, caught-red-handed rapist. This is not a “boys will be boys” act of college peer pressure. This is a kid that preyed on an obviously blacked out woman and instead of doing a valiant thing and getting out her phone and helping her track down her people…he violated her in the most horrifying and disgusting way. What he did was MONSTROUS. He is a monster. And, for that, he deserves to be punished much more than his fellow alum awarded him. Shame. Shame on him.
But what I am terrified about was how, what was a sweet and thoughtful boy, turned into that predator of the night, stalking a victim behind a dumpster? How did someone’s pride and joy and light of their life become THE cautionary tale of the decade for all college students? What was he thinking? Where did his mind go?
But, more importantly, how do we talk to our sons about this? Because this feels like a conversation that most parents avoid with their kids. We tell our girls never to put their drinks down, to travel in packs, to never leave with stangers…but do we talk to our sons about date rape? About inebriation and the lack of consent? Or do we just expect them to know? Sure, 9.99 out of 10 have a solid moral compass but there is the .01% that are good kids that make a choice that will affect the rest of someone else’s life irrevocably for the worse.
That kid may have been a humorous and wonderful boy, but now, as a man, he is a rapist. That “20 minutes of action” that his dad is so obsessed with that doesn’t define his character…well, it does. Now it is everything everyone will ever know about him. And I am willing to bet his dad never sat that child down and had a conversation about consent with him. I bet he wishes he did now, though.
When our kids are out in the world, we become the Jiminy Crickets sitting on their shoulders with the words of wisdom in their ears when they are presented with a situation that could make or break their character. Will they always listen? Of course not. But if they really are a “good kid” they will. That swimmer could be a sociopath for all that I know but I don’t think that everyone that knows him has it wrong. I think he was a decent kid that lost all sense of sanity in that situation. Or he thought he could get away with it. Whatever the reason, I think we need to start talking to our boys about rape. Really opening the conversation instead of just hoping they make good decisions.
Campus rape happens too much to think it’s just inherently bad seeds that commit it. It’s a blurred line to college boys. Trust me, I dated a frat boy. They genuinely didn’t think having sex with a girl who fell asleep making out with them was then still considered RAPE. They thought I was crazy when I told them. Because back then it was rarely reported. These are the same boys we send into the world, especially the alcohol-fueled college campusues, before their brains are developed. We just asssume they know all of the different variations of rape and how to handle themselves in all of the situations that can present themselves as an actual adult.
That boy, for all of his good deeds and college records, is done. He is a lost cause. He will spend the rest of his life trying to come out of the shadow of his treachery and, for his victim’s sake, I hope he is unsuccessful. But I think this should open all of our eyes to the conversations that we AREN’T having with our boys. Let’s stop assuming and start talking.
- If a girl says, “No”, for any reason, that’s rape. Walk away.
- Do not try to “talk” her out of a no. That’s rape. Walk away.
- If a girl can’t speak properly, she can’t give consent. Period. Walk away.
- NEVER touch a girl who is passed out. That’s goddamn rape. Call her friends.
Will it be uncomfortable as they roll their eyes while you blush? Yes! But I know when I was young and dumb my mother’s voice would pop into my head every time a guy would ask me if I wanted to go home with him to see his new kitten. That fear of what could happen always ruled me and made me think twice. And if we could save one college girl from the epidemic of campus rape…isn’t it worth trying?
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.