When I think of young people "doing something stupid" I think of shooting road signs, spray paint and throwing eggs at cars, maybe even stealing a radio. I don't think of date rape. In fact, I shudder to think that anyone would place sexual assault of any kind into the same category as toilet papering houses on Halloween.
I am responding to John Marshall's comments on May 26. He wrote, "I believe there is a real difference between some young teen that, caught up in the throes of wild hormones, does something stupid with his girlfriend versus an adult who sexually attacks a young child." I found many of Mr. Marshall's points compelling and applaud his willingness to initiate a conversation that is worth having. When it comes to issues of sexual violence I believe we need more dialogue, not less, and agree that new approaches are needed.
However, we need to make it clear to our young people that rape in any form is not just "doing something stupid," and that youth, hormones and alcohol are no excuse for serious criminal behavior that destroys lives. Additionally, a crime committed by a young person against someone who happened to be his or her girlfriend at the time is no less heinous than a crime committed against a stranger. In the majority of rape cases the victims know their rapist. This is precisely the reason that a sex offenders list is valuable, so that individuals can exercise increased caution in their relationships and interactions with known sex offenders.
I am not suggesting that Mr. Marshall's intent was to discount the seriousness of acquaintance rape. However, I do believe we must be very careful about using such careless language to describe what is a grave and frighteningly widespread problem. To belittle the seriousness of men or women of any age engaging in sex that is not entirely consensual is absolutely intolerable. Sexual assault in any form can never be justified as "something stupid" kids do, or approached with a "boys will be boys" attitude. We can raise better boys, and education of both young men and women about rights and responsibilities in intimate relationships should be part of any program to combat sexual violence. Rape is inexcusable. It goes well beyond just "doing something stupid," and it is our responsibility to make that clear to young people in our community.
Rebecca M. Taylor