Compassionately Confronting Rape Culture: Steubenville, Ohio
By now you’ve probably heard about the high school football rape scandal in Steubenville, Ohio. The case garnered national and international attention when hacktivist group Anonymous interceded in what appeared to be a cover-up: leaking horrifying Twitter posts and video created by current and former football players the night of the alleged rape.
Demonstrations in Steubenville have since drawn thousands of protestors (impressive, though nowhere near the numbers in India). Pundits from Nicholas Kristof to the Youtuber above have also weighed in. And in an unexpected and welcome turn of events, no doubt ascribable (at least in part) to the cringeworthy pro-rape video leaked by Anonymous, public scrutiny seems to be focused more on the deplorable behavior of the students and school authorities involved, rather than the actions of the survivor, Jane Doe. (That may change, though, in typical victim-blaming fashion, once the juvenile-court trial begins on February 12th.)
What we have, then, may be a rare opportunity. An opportunity for compassionate confrontation against rape culture, institutionalized in the form of Steubenville High, and pervasive in all corners of our society. (Yes, even our sanghas.)
From a dharma standpoint, I’m reminded of a line from Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of the Five Precepts: “The Five Wonderful Mindfulness Trainings.”
I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
I love the active stance of this translation, and the ways it encourages us to intervene, to support, to protect, to COMPASSIONATELY CONFRONT sexual misconduct not only in ourselves, but in the institutions of our larger society.
How can we do this?
Here’s a proposal I support: a demand letter to Steubenville High School, with a promise to mobilize if the demands are not met. Can we think of others good approaches?
If you support the above letter, too, follow the directions there and leave a comment. Let’s show our solidarity as Buddhists working to challenge and heal sexual misconduct, in Steubenville and where we live!
And whether you agree or disagree with the letter, feel free to share your thoughts here.