Friday night, I watched an episode of ABC’s 20/20, entitled, Steubenville: After the Party’s Over, and ever since watching it, my heart has grieved, and I can’t help wondering, Why? There are so many different perspectives here and you just have to ask yourself what went wrong? With all of the turmoil there has been in my life recently, it was really easy to fall behind on the news, and so when I saw this program, I was shocked and appalled by everyone involved in this horrible incident, and several questions began to brew in my spirit…
- What made the boys, who committed this crime against the victim, think that it was their right to treat another human being with such degradation and disrespect?
- What would make teenaged boys, who witnessed the cruelty and shame forced upon this girl, think that it was entertaining and funny — so much so, that they took videos and pictures of her and posted them online?
- Why would teenaged girls, who obviously feared for the victim’s safety, advising her not to go with her abusers, do nothing else to protect her — by calling the police or at the very least, a trusted adult to step in?
- Where were the parents of all of those teenagers involved in the parties that night?
- When parents and coaches learned what had happened, why were those who participated in the parties, pictures and tweets, still allowed to play football, undisciplined?
- How did this girl find herself in such a dangerous position?
- How does “Jane Doe” pick up the pieces and move on with her life?
The case has been tried, and two boys, Trent Mays, age 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, age 16, were convicted of rape on March 13, 2013. My reason for writing this post is not to question their guilt or innocence. My reason for examining this case and writing about it is to encourage parents, children and teens to talk about what happened in Steubenville, Ohio, and thereby, hopefully deter another horrific incident like this.
Therefore, in a series of posts, I will be addressing each of the questions that I listed above, beginning with the first question…
What made the boys, who committed this crime against the victim, think that it was their right to treat another human being with such degradation and disrespect?
Were Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond completely heartless? Did they think that they were better than the girl they abused? What made them think they had a right to treat “Jane Doe” in such a callous manner?
9 “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I know! I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
~ Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT ~
I don’t believe for a moment that these two boys were completely heartless, especially in light of scripture. Do you see it? The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked… The problem with these boys is not that they are heartless, but that their hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Both Trent and Ma’lik had a heart problem that neither were aware of, and before we examine this any farther, I need to be up front with you… You and I are not exempt from this heart problem. Let’s look at verse 9 again:
“The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
~ Jeremiah 17:9 NLT ~
The scripture doesn’t say some hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. It very clearly includes all human hearts — that includes yours and mine… So what could have led these two boys to humiliate, abuse, molest and rape this girl?
These boys were “stars,” adored by Stuebenville’s football fans and their families. They were built up and put on a pedestal as star athletes, who were somehow better than others. Let’s be real, we see this adulation of high school athletes all over the country, and not only high school athletes, but college and professional athletes as well. They are given star treatment, often receiving special perks for being good-looking, talented and intelligent, and as the scripture says, “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked…”
All too often, when people are built up like this, it goes to their heads, and they begin to believe that they really are special… that rules and laws don’t really apply to them… that they are entitled to receive special treatment… and that their needs are more important than the needs of others. While it’s true that not everyone who receives this kind of “special” treatment responds in this way, there are many who do.
It isn’t healthy or wise to put people on a pedestal. Certainly, it is good for parents and teachers to acknowledge a child’s accomplishments and to encourage him/her. But it is equally important to teach a child humility. Every child should know that while he/she may be gifted, their talents are just that — a gift from God, and that gift does not make someone more important than anyone else. Indeed, those who are given gifts must also be taught how to be responsible.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
~ James 1:17 NKJV ~
Parents, it’s up to us to teach our children the difference between right and wrong. We are the ones who are responsible for teaching our children not to look out for number one, but to put the needs of others above even our own needs…
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
~ Romans 12:10 NIV ~
We need to recognize that while it is damaging to give a child low self-esteem, it is equally damaging to build a child’s self-esteem so high that they believe they are above others.
What if those boys had been armed with the knowledge that their hearts were so terribly wicked and deceitful? What if they were taught that their talent was a gift given to them by God, not because they were any better or more deserving than anyone else, but simply because of His grace? And what if those boys had been taught to honor others (including “Jane Doe”) above themselves? Is it possible that the Steubenville Horror could have been averted?
My beloved readers, do you have children… grandchildren… nieces and nephews… students… teen-aged friends? Talk to them about this horrible atrocity, and ask them what they would do if they were in the position these boys were in. Talk to them about how these boys should have responded and why what they did was so utterly and terribly wrong. Talk to them about the consequences of their actions…
And please, join me in praying for Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond…
Father, in Jesus’ name, I cry out to You for Trent Mays’ and Ma’lik Richmond’s hearts, which are most deceitful and desperately wicked, and I ask You to create a clean heart within them. Lord, let them see the wickedness of their actions against “Jane Doe,” and fill their hearts with remorse and repentance.
Lord, let them learn from this, and let each young man repent of his sins and find salvation in You. I pray that You would set them free from the lies that they have told themselves, and that others have told them. I pray that You would reveal to them that they are no better than anyone else, and that they would begin to place others above themselves, seeking ways to help others, rather than to harm them.
Lord, I also cry out to You for the girl that they damaged. Father, please protect this young woman, and touch her heart. Let her feel the warmth of Your embrace, and let Your rivers of healing waters wash over her, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Cheryl A. Showers