In the last month, the Steubenville rape case has gained a lot of media attention nationally and caused a great division in the Ohio town. As a result of the trial, many disturbing themes emerged that concern me as a parent and as a high school counselor. Some of these themes were identified by two national authors that I admire, Rachel Simmons and Rosalind Wiseman.Some of these themes include: underage drinking, parental abandonment, date rape, female relational aggression, rape culture silence, child pornography, and misogyny.
As a high school counselor, I frequently hear stories from students about drinking at parties, regrettable sexual encounters, the misuse of social media, and the pain from sexual abuse. While reading about the football’s players’ disparaging comments regarding the offensive photos of the victim, my mind flashed back to a classroom I visited last year. During a freshman guidance session, I was talking to students about the pitfalls of the freshman year.One of my slides was about cyber bullying and our discussion turned to sharing photos on Facebook.During our dialogue, there was a group of football players on my right who started laughing uncontrollably when I mentioned that sharing nude photos of themselves or others was considered child pornography. Following the outburst, I quickly realized that these boys were putting themselves in serious jeopardy of getting into trouble. Before class was over, I walked over to two of the young men and began to spout off my legal and criminal knowledge of the consequences of sending nude photos over social media. After I finished my educational tout, the boys just looked at me and burst into another round of laughter. At that point, feeling defeated and highly agitated at their immaturity, I walked away.
The Steubenville case is not an isolated incident. Each weekend around our country, high school students are involved in promiscuous and dangerous behaviors that may impact them for years. The results of their reckless behavior can result in post-traumatic stress, academic failure, legal issues, mistrust in relationships, creation of a negative school culture, and dropping out of school. How can high school counselors use the themes from this unfortunate case to make a difference in their school?Since there is such a stigma in talking about rape culture, there are several ideas that school counselors can employ to educate students and parents. Here are some suggestions that can be added to your counseling curriculum and I hope to hear from other school counselors about their ideas as well.