It was with mixed emotions that we at Men Can Stop Rape received news of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape case. We are happy to hear that, in this instance, the justice system has treated rape and sexual assault as gravely as it would other crimes. We cannot bring ourselves to smile, though, as two teenage boys are sent to jail and one 16 year old girl is left to pick up the pieces after her very public trauma. When I think of those young men, I think about the countless young men we have worked with in our Men of Strength Clubs throughout the country, including in Ohio. Boys who are trapped in a toxic culture of unhealthy, violent masculinity. When I think of that young woman, I think about my own daughters and how angry, saddened, hurt, and confused I would be if something like that happened to them. Girls who are as well trapped in that toxic culture of unhealthy, violent masculinity and pay the heaviest toll for it.
I can admit that my first instinct on these kinds of cases is to demand my pound of flesh. I’ve been working on issues of healthy masculinity for over 15 years and I still cannot escape the societal mindset that vengeance is the same as healing. It is not. For many of us, this is what happens in a society dominated by unhealthy masculinity, and the easiest way to react to something like rape that scares, shocks, saddens, and wounds us is to be angry. But our anger won’t help us understand why these boys felt it okay to rape an unconscious girl, it won’t help the survivor heal from her trauma, and it certainly won’t address the underlying causes of rape culture. It may make us feel better to think that a case like this will make would-be rapists question their actions, but the pressures to showcase traditional ideals of masculinity will always outweigh the news stories that only capture our attention for one week at a time.
Click here to read the full story on the Men Can Stop Rape website.