Ironically, I was at a swim meet with my 11-year-old son when I first read about the Stanford sexual abuse case.
If you haven’t heard about this horrific event, a Stanford University freshman, a swimmer on scholarship, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious girl behind a dumpster after a party.
I saw a link to the victim impact statement while trolling Facebook, and it caught my attention. I clicked the link, and it was like a train wreck. I couldn’t stop reading it. And since then, I can’t stop thinking about it.
It took me back to my own college days. There was a lot of drinking, and a few times when I woke up with no idea what happened the night before. Those nights still haunt me. A close friend of mine was sexually assaulted in college, but she only told her closest friends. That’s what happens most of the time. Girls often feel they are somehow to blame, that they have no defense.
But the victim in the Stanford case stood up for herself. She refused to assume any responsibility despite the fact she couldn’t remember anything. Even after the assault, the boy continued to put her through hell, but she fought back. Her statement gave me hope. I felt like she was not only fighting for herself, but for my college friend and for all women.
The night after I learned about the Stanford case, I sat down with my 15-year-old son and we read it together. My husband and I both felt it was important that he read it, that he understand. People drink, people do crazy things, but there is absolutely no excuse for this.
My son had trouble comprehending it. The fact that it happened, the fact that the boy denied it, the fact that he violated her again in court, the fact that the judge seemed more concerned about the boy’s future — none of it made sense in his innocent, 15-year-old brain. And I’m glad.
And then there’s the boy’s father — who waxed poetic about how sad it was that this tragic event altered his son’s life. When my husband saw what the father said, his anger was fast and furious. He couldn’t help but picture the victim as one of his own daughters. That’s what dads do.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about trying to protect our teens from the party scene. This is one of my biggest fears for them. I hope that knowing this story will weigh in when they start drinking.
It’s hard enough to defend yourself against predators like this guy, but impossible when you’ve been drinking. And I don’t want them to ever find out the hard way.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.