“Hey bros, check out who passed out on the couch. Guess what I’m gonna do to her.”
When you hear a college-aged male utter those words and see a young woman lying unconscious behind him, you can only imagine what happens next.
Suffice it to say, you probably aren’t expecting him to get the girl a pillow, a blanket, and a glass of water, then say, “Real men treat women with respect.”
That’s the crux of a student-made public service announcement posted on YouTube last week in response to the Steubenville rape case. The video, called “A Needed Response,” was the brainchild of Samantha Stendal, a sophomore film student at the University of Oregon, according to the New York Daily News.
Stendal told the paper that her video was “a direct response to the Steubenville rape case,” but that she wanted it “to relate to anyone.” On YouTube, the caption with the video reads, “To the Steubenville rapists... or any rapists out there.”
“I just wanted something positive out there,” she said to the paper, “especially after there had been so many negative responses and people going directly to victim-blaming.”
Since being posted on YouTube on March 22, the video has already garnered more than 1.7 million views. While those viewership figures aren’t in the ballpark of the Miami Heat’s recent Harlem Shake video (40 million-plus views since Feb. 28), it’s still mighty impressive, especially for a noncelebrity.
As Stendal mentioned to the Daily News, victim-blaming has been pervasive in regard to the Steubenville case, as the 16-year-old victim reportedly drank enough on the night of the rape to black out and lose consciousness.
In fact, you don’t even have to leave edweek.org to hear about students’ propensity to blame the victim in the Steubenville case. Ilana Garon, an English teacher at a public high school in the Bronx and an opinion blogger for Education Week Teacher, recently wrote about her own students’ reactions to rape and jock culture in discussing Steubenville.
Garon’s students expressed no sympathy for the two convicted football players (unlike certain media outlets, she notes), but “took an equally critical view of the victim” because of how reportedly drunk she was that night. “They maintained that it was her fault for putting herself in such a vulnerable position,” according to Garon.
Opinion blogger Sam Chaltain, whose work I’ve already linked to before, focused more on what educators and schools can do to prevent such behavior. “The fact that our state and national policies continue to overvalue academic knowledge ... at the expense of every other aspect of child and adolescent development is not an excuse for inaction,” he wrote.
Chaltain says educators “have a responsibility to think long and hard about what kind of people we hope will graduate from our schools,” and must then ensure that they’re actively working toward that vision on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, over at The Nation, blogger Dave Zirin is imploring professional sports leagues to “devote major financial resources toward educating young men about the need to stand up to rape and all manifestations of violence against women.” Last week, in writing specifically about the Steubenville case, Zirin said, “I believe that a locker room left to its own devices will drift toward becoming a breeding ground for rape culture.”
Much like first lady Michelle Obama’s message that it’ll take everyone chipping in to win the fight against childhood obesity, it’s likely that a collective effort may be necessary to instruct young men about the perils of sexual violence. While it may seem common-sensical to some, the Steubenville football players proved that not every child or adolescent understands the profound implications of rape and other sexual assaults.
Stendal’s video serves as a 27-second reminder of just how easy it is to spread that message.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.