Keep Your Head Up

I grew up in the pleasant and well-shaded town of Montclair, NJ. This past week, my very own Montclair High School received some rather negative press. Apparently, two football players lured a 16-year old girl into their car, took her to a park near my old middle school, and raped her. The Daily News labeled it “horror high”.

As upset as I was at hearing that, particularly because my little sister is still enrolled there, I cannot say that I was terribly surprised. When I was enrolled there I know for a fact other girls were sexually assaulted at house parties; the aggravators were inevitably popular kids who everyone still talked to afterwards. It was almost something that everyone knew was terrible, but no one dealt with because no one had to talk about it. Luckily, this time the girl who was assaulted spoke to her friends, and they convinced her to go to the police. Nevertheless, my sister informs me that word in school is that the girl made it up.

A few years before my freshman year of college, a nearby school had a similar problem. Almost the whole football team at Glen Ridge High school stood around while two athletes raped a mentally challenged student. It took two trials to get guilty verdicts in a case that was relatively cut-and-dry, because the whole town rallied behind “their boys.” I hope that is not the case in Montclair. UVM has a rape crisis center, and those emergency lights all over campus for if people are in trouble. Most, and hopefully all girls on campus, are aware of the dangers of walking alone, or getting into situations where some scumbag can try to take advantage of them. But the overall male population I feel ignores the fact that rape and sexual assault are a major issue today.

The justice department reports “For every 1,000 college women living on campus, 35 rapes happen every academic year. Fewer than 5% of these assaults are reported to law enforcement officials” (courtesy of www.stoprapevermont.org/stats.html). That works out to a 3.5% chance of being raped for a girl living on a college campus. Because most of these are never reported, most guys can walk around like this does not happen. Until someone they know is raped, it remains the fodder for bad lifetime movies. But rape and sexual assault is a reality. We all probably know one or more girls that have been sexually assaulted, and we all probably know one guy who may seem like a nice fellow, but has committed sexual assault.

Because of the gravity of this most recent situation at my school, something will surely be done. The story, which my sister says started as a rumor on Monday, and was leaked to the press on Friday, will surely spark some changes in the policy of Montclair High School. But most frequently, it is not two men in a park who commit rape. The most frequent rapes are committed by men who know their female victims. 90% of the women who reported being raped to the Vermont Rape Crisis Center knew their attacker. Their friends, boyfriends, or someone they met at a party raped them. In this situation, very few people choose to come forward, leading to a problem which is very easy to pretend does not exist.

But we cannot do that. Because the problem will only get worse. As much as I love rap music, and feel that you can’t blame this type of behavior on anyone other than the perpetrator, there is something to be said that young boys are hearing a lot more talk of beating and raping women than loving them. Such artists as Eve, Tupac Shakur, and Missy Eliot have made the point to highlight the trouble that women face, but artists such as Eminem and others have not made the point of balancing the good and the bad. They have focused wholly on the bad. This is not something that I disagree with, but I don’t think it can have a terribly good effect on the young men being brought up in our society.

Until women are respected more in our society, and we open up to the realities of sexual and spousal abuse, something like this is sure to happen again.