Lessons From Steubenville

Lessons From Steubenville

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In case you're one of the few who haven't heard about what's been going on in Steubenville, Ohio, two members of the small town's high school football team were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl last August. One of the terribly sad things about this story is that many teens took pictures of the incident on their cell phones but did nothing to help the girl, who was intoxicated and didn't remember what happened. It's a whole, big, tragic picture of what happens when people dismiss sin and devalue each other.

On her blog, author Ann Voskamp writes a moving essay titled "After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons Need to Know About Manhood." It's written as a letter to her almost-18-year-old son and begins:

"Dear Son,

When you’re the mother of four sons, Steubenville is about us.

Steubenville is about having a conversation with sons about hard things and asking you to do holy things.

Because a Steubenville doesn’t begin with football and it doesn’t begin with alcohol and it doesn’t begin with unsupervised jocks with inflated egos and shriveled morals. It begins with one woman bringing home a man-child in her arms, one mama unwrapping that blanket and what it means to raise up a man."

Voskamp's letter touches me for several reasons. First, as the mother of a son, I feel the weight of raising him to be a good man. Second, the author's insights into how God values a woman, and how a man should respond, are profound. At the heart of her piece she details an experience where she and some other teens from her youth group told some adult leaders about a 20-year-old man who was molesting some of the teen girls. The teens were told, "Boys will be boys." Voskamp writes:

"Son. When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.

And that is never the heart of God.

That’s what you have to get, Son — Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.

Your Dad is one of those men. When he heard of what happened in Steubenville, how boys your age had violated a young woman with such indifference and ignorance, he said it to me quiet –

'Unless a man looks to Jesus, a man doesn’t know how to treat a woman.' "

Toward the end of the letter she elaborates on what it means for a man to embrace God's heart in his treatment of women:

"So your Dad wanted you to know — when you turn the pages of the Bible, Son, let everything you read of women be shaped by how Jesus sealed His view and value of women.

Let Christ shape you and not the magazine covers of the Walmart checkout: Real Manhood never objectifies women. Real Manhood edifies women."

I've read some excellent articles on manhood written by brilliant, godly men — but none have touched my heart, and reminded me of God's love and care for me, the way this one did. This author articulates, as only a mother can, the importance — no, absolute necessity — of men looking to Jesus as they discover how they should treat the women in their lives.

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  • An important lesson. Another one we must begin to renew is where our girls see their value. When a tragedy such as this happens, our girls need to know their value is not determined by earthly standards, but is in the Lord.


  • Great post, Suzanne!

  • The lesson is about raising good kids with good morals and knowing what is right and wrong. Morality exists outside of religion, this doesn't mean that everyone has to become a church-goer to make sure these things don't happen.

    there are good people out there, who aren't christians and they're doing just fine.

  • I appreciate the underlying points in this article about raising men to respect women, but it frustrates me incredibly when people assume that rape and sexual assault are about men, women, and their roles.  This is entirely untrue.  Yes, most of the reported and newsworthy cases are about male perpetrators and female victims.  But there are many, many male victims of assault and many female perpetrators of sexual violence.  Why can't we just grow up teaching everyone to be kind and respectful and helpful to everyone?  We need to make sure we always remember that rape is not a crime of sex or lust, but a crime of power.  We need to teach everyone, from a very young age and in general situations, what "no" and "yes" sound like in many ways.  Rape prevention generally starts in college and it is generally aimed at teaching women to protect themselves.  It needs to start much earlier, in elementary school, by teaching children to value each other, and to ask for help for someone who is hurting or being hurt.  

    I also have a very difficult time believing one must look to Jesus to treat another appropriately.  Do you truly believe that men of other faiths - atheists, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists (some of the gentlest, most peaceful, and charitable people on the planet) don't know how to treat others properly?  As Syd pointed out, morality exists outside of religion.  Of course it does!

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  • Well syd, I appreciate what you are saying, but those people without God are not doing just fine, they are lost and need a savior just like I do, and they are not truly good, even though they may operate under a secular system of morality that appears to lead to good results for them and others that they interact with.  

    Please hear the following in the spirit that it was intended, with love and as encouragement that there is always hope and that God has provided a way, but additionally that Jesus is the only way to salvation and to living a good life under the influence of his Holy Spirit.

    All have sinned, that includes me, you and these people you referenced.

    Romans 3:21-23

    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [l]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

    Sin leads to eventual spiritual death for everyone who has sinned.

    Romans 6:23

    23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    But there is hope for us all.  Me, you and all other people can be saved by believing in Jesus' name.

    1 Peter 3:18

    18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

    John 5:24

    24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

  • Haven't heard of this incident but it shocked me to hear the evil that is all around us, Thank you Suzanne for the post and the point you raise, yes we have to look to Jesus to know the value of human beings. No matter how we say we live in a civilized world with out Christ it seems its getting worse everyday. We want to look to him and teach our kids how to respect life as God created it with eternal value that he did not hesitate to even sacrifice his only son.

  • Thank you for posting this, Suzanne. I thought Ann's point,  if "boys will be boys, girls will be garbage," was particularly poignant.

    I love how Ann's post is directed toward men. At least as I was growing up, our youth group emphasized the importance of modesty to the girls. 'Girls, don't make your brothers stumble! Don't awaken love before it's time!' The onus of purity and lust seemed to be on us girls...But the boys didn't need to worry about that much since none of them would be caught dead in a speedo! So when I was 16 and a man stalked me around a store and solicited me for sex, I thought it was my fault (irony: I was wearing an XXL VBS T-shirt and huge scrub pants). The onus was on me. I ran away from the man, confused, not sure what to do, and never told anyone because I thought I had somehow brought this upon myself.

    Sadly, that wasn't the last time I experienced that kind of situation, and I think many women can say they've had similar experiences. And that's where the godly guys come in. They help remind us how we should be treated, even when the world is telling us something different. They remind us that character is beautiful, and that our contribution to society is not based on sex-appeal. Through their actions, they remind us that we are valued, not because we are their girlfriends (for we're not), but because we are women worthy of respect. Because Jesus thought women were worthy of respect. I LOVE that this challenges men to think about Real Manhood and how Jesus treated women because it is SO IMPORTANT! We need more godly men who will take a stand against objectifying women!

  • It is kind of interesting that, in a culture which insists that there no absolutes, so many who promote that viewpoint are all but ready to crucify these two guys for raping a 16-year-old gal.

    I fully support the prosecution here, and believe that the two football players need to learn some very hard lessons and--to the extent that this is possible--seek to make amends with the woman they raped.

    While they probably thought they were just having some fun, they crossed a line that no one should ever cross. And, sadly, there is no going back. With most other crimes--such as theft--one can make restitution. But for acts such as rape, molestation, murder (in its various degrees), there is no full restitution for the victim. You can't un-rape or un-kill or un-molest someone. There is no status quo ante.

    If you commit one of those acts, you own it for life. While that should not be the beginning of the conversation, that is an integral part of it.

    Sex is a very big deal. Sexual assault perverts that which is good, and associates that which is good with violence and violation. Rather than reflect the love of Christ for His Church--and the glories to come--it promotes betrayal and hate.

    I also would second what the blogger said about the importance of fathers. If a child grows up in a home where mom and dad respect each other and teach everyone to respect their--and others'--bodies, the chances of that child being involved in a case like this is remote.

    There is another angle to this as well: the world is cruel and you cannot trust that others will have your back. Even if you are sober, you may still be vulnerable to an attack. (I have blogged about a case where a Marine officer was sexually assaulted by another Marine at a military ball. And the Marines did everything they could to keep her from going forward. She was sober; she did everything right; she still got raped.)

    I only say this to point out that THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN TRUST TO DEFEND YOUR INTEREST IS YOURSELF. (Where were her friends at that party? Where were the good people to stand up for her? The people she thought were her friends were actually complicit in her assault and the coverup of that assault.)

    In a perfect world: Farmer Tom and I would have been there. There would have been no booze. And any attempt to molest any of the gals would have resulted in loss of kneecap (or other body parts). Sadly, Farmer Tom and I can't be everywhere all the time!

    But don't forget this: whenever there is a party, particularly if substantial alcohol is involved, and ESPECIALLY if underage drinking is going on, there is probably going to be at least one or more folks of ill repute in attendance. And if you are a female, you need to look at such events as a combat zone.

  • Amir,

    I agree with you there about the alcohol issue but sadly, there are a fair number of people out there who feel that is simply "victim blaming" and part of our "rape culture".  Don't believe me, check out this thread: rachelheldevans.com/.../dianna-anderson-rape-culture-victim-blaming

  • In consideration of this post, especially with regards to An's own story, and in light of the recent child sex abuse scandals that have been brought to light at Sovereign Grace Ministries, and the conviction of pastor Jack Schapp for sex with a minor, perhaps it would be a good thing for Boundless to address spiritual abuse. How does one recognize it, or someone caught in it, how does one help someone caught in it, and how does someone get out? A podcast with guests from The Wartburg Watch would be well worth it.

  • MikeTime:

    I'm not denying any of that out there, and I see the inclination where some might have to "blame the victim". They're wrong, but I understand why they do it.

    My take, though: whatever her blood alcohol level was, she did not deserve to be raped. Nor did her consumption of alcohol--or her presence at the party--give other boys the right to her body.

    What they did was rape, and--thankfully--they were prosecuted (albeit in spite of attempted coverups).

    At the same time, I DO believe in teaching people how to mitigate their forward risks. Avoiding people known to frequent the hookup culture, staying sober (or at least limiting your drinking to one or two beers--on a full stomach--if you are otherwise of age), gettiing home at a reasonable time, staying in a group--those things will help minimize a person's risk.

    Sadly, because of the extremes--one side wanting to blame the victim and the other side insisting that any discussing of her conduct is tantamount to "blaming the victim"--it becomes difficult to address these issues with any reasonable level of candor, and, as a result, people end up insisting on ignorance.

    The women end up losing.

  • Wow. Just wow. I bet none of you ever made a stupid decision at 16. Thankfully yours didn't end in being raped. I am totally sickened by the idea that men who call themselves Christians can berblast sinners on one thread on the blog and then move to the next and sympathize with rapists because the VICTIM made some unfortunate life decisions that ended in her being vulnerable. Real men defend vulnerable women. They do not rape them and they do not defend those who would on the grounds that their VICTIM was incapacitated or that their "promising football career" is over. They don't blame the VICTIM when a room full of students should have come to her defense and didn't. They don't blame the VICTIM when the adults who should have offered her justice swept it under the rug to protect her rapists. They don't post on social media or message boards that the VICTIM  put herself in a rapeable position. What is WRONG with people??

  • Why did this happen? I don't think this is an isolated incident. I think it happens at many schools, universities, homes, etc. around the world every day. Because all human hearts, without God, are "deceitful and desperately wicked."  It's evident not just in what they did but also in the way the perpetrators and the victims "friends" try to justify and protect themselves in the aftermath. There is the saying too that a drunk man's actions are a sober man's thoughts.  Alcohol does not make the victim at fault or excuse crime, but it certainly doesn't aid in its prevention.

  • Ashley:

    Like I said, in a perfect world, Farmer Tom and I would have been there. There would have been no booze. Any troublemakers would have been in for a world of hurt. The chances of Jane Doe getting raped would have been slim to zero.

    That said, Farmer Tom and I can't be everywhere all the time, and that is why it is important to teach people that THE WORLD IS CRUEL.

    If you're a 16-year-old female--and/or are drunk--the world is not going to pass you up for an adult. This is because THE WORLD IS CRUEL.

    You cannot trust that your "friends" are going to help you. Any number of Jews who were boxed up in railroad cars and sent to death camps--while their neighbors sat around and did nothing--can testify to what I am saying. This is not simply about parties and booze and rape; it goes A LOT FARTHER THAN THAT.

    My point is that THE WORLD IS CRUEL. The sooner people accept that sordid truth, then they can take rational steps in the interests of their own security, and the security of their loved ones.

    THE WORLD IS CRUEL. Jesus points to a better way. People aren't going to learn that better way from the world. And you cannot assume that--just because your "friends" appear to be good, that they know that better way. You owe it to yourself and your kids to teach them that better way, reinforcing the sober truth that THE WORLD IS CRUEL.

    Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

    I think a lot of us--in our idealism--forget about the admonition about being "wise as serpents".

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