Steubenville Rape & Recurrent Dreams of Violated Space.

There is a big effort in recent articles to see potential positive effects in our culture because of revelations about teenage males allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage female at the end of last summer in Steubenville, OH. I read these articles with hope. I like to think that something good can come from anything. Maybe we can all have an awareness and change rape culture.

And I want to say that the sexual assault was not helpful or positive. It was ruthlessly harmful. A teen female went to party, probably anticipating a fun time with friends. She should have had the freedom to make her own choices with friends supporting her, and respecting her. It’s what I think.

Instead, according to at least one account she was drugged with a “date rape” intoxicant, probably passed to her by a “friend.” Her unconscious body was apparently carried from party to party and repeatedly sexually assaulted by more than one person and urinated on according to media sources including the New York Times.

There was nothing helpful or positive about this heinous evening of events. There is nothing good about sexual assault of a teen female being reportedly witnessed at more than one party, as well as worldwide through twitter and instagram.

I wonder how she is doing, and I hope that she can get the support that she needs. I would like to hear about her experience from her and offer support. I would like to hear from other female and male witnesses and offer support to try to help heal all who were harmed by this event. Every person who is now more afraid because of this story needs supportive friends, and possibly councilors or other trusted help. This includes those of us affected by learning and following this story.

This story is horrible. I’m sorry that people have had to experience this. It hurts us when someone is violated. It hurts.

The story has particularly affected me probably because I grew up from the ages of 7 to part of 17 in a small town in eastern Ohio about 25 miles north of Steubenville. I resisted watching the video of the teen male joking about the assault for at least a day, but finally watched it.

When I heard the accent of the speaker in the video, it brought some part of me rushing back. I knew boys who spoke like that. The jovial presentation of despicable words is an education. It reminds me and brings home the idea that people involved in horrible things don’t believe themselves to be horrible. He appears to think he is fine, but what he is enjoying saying is so beyond sick. I believe he needs help, he appears to be a very dangerous person who does not recognize that he has been involved in or at least seen something wrong: a crime that happened over several hours and hurt people. It hurt the teen female who was sexually assaulted. It hurt witnesses by seeing someone assaulted like that, perhaps cultivating fears that they could be next. It hurt family members and friends. And countless others learning of these events who are perhaps triggered into the pain of their own experiences of violence, or who fear for themselves or their friends and children.

This story affected me: I woke up last Saturday morning remembering a dream that I’ve had countless times.


My apartment had been trespassed. A door that I had locked was somehow opened without any evidence of violence. Someone had come in, not to steal things—I’m not sure why they were there. But they were in my house. They came in, perhaps to have a good time. Sometimes in this dream there is evidence of drinking: empty bottles. Or sometimes pizza boxes… There have been occurrences of the dream when I am there and can spy on the people in my house, not too closely, but I can hear parts of what is happening or see shadows or outlines. But usually I am in a place that is now empty with an open or unlocked door.

Remembering the dream with the Steubenville story still fresh in my mind forged a connection in my awareness. I was seeing something new about myself and my own fears bustling beneath the surface of a mental constitution that likes to remind me that “I’m okay.”

In other words, I was completely stirred up by the recent unfolding of released materials and protests around a Steubenville, Ohio gang rape. It seemed to jog something free. I made a connection. Could this dream be related to sexual violence? It definitely seems related to feeling insecure in my house, and even my body!

I believe myself to be triggered by this story, and particularly by the video of an 18 year old male joking about the violent events of the evening with buddies including a reference to the (still unconscious) victim nearby. It is truly sickening.

And so I am somewhat disgusted that I have been personally helped by knowing this story. The fact that it brought so much up for me (and I was ready to see what came) leaves me feeling humble. How do I accept this gift?

I saw myself as a teenage girl, and remembered a lot.

What I saw was that rather than learning about being a sexual person, or how to be a sexual person, or be sexual, what I was actually learning was how to be raped. It sounds harsh, but that’s what I think. The story I was learning wasn’t about me. It was about what men wanted to do to me, and threatened to do to me. If I liked him, I wouldn’t fight back.

The default notion that a female wants sex unless she fights back sufficiently (whatever amount that is), apparently allows people to think it’s okay to assault drunk/drugged people—people who can’t fight back. How sick is that?

People need to be educated, and educate themselves about consent (resource: Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway). Teens need to know where to learn about healthy sexuality. I recommend Scarleteen as a great web resource about sex for teens.

I feel like I’m educating my inner teenager about healthy, consensual sexuality now. I am currently working to create safety for myself to explore sexual pleasure that I can actively participate in, rather than it being something that just happens to me “because men can’t help it.”

And to make the world a better place I want to see people learn more as soon as possible so we do not continue to perpetuate abuse in our own sex lives.

I wish great healing for all of us.

2 thoughts on “Steubenville Rape & Recurrent Dreams of Violated Space.

  1. Great post, Brooks. Your insight, “because men can’t help it.”, is intentionally spot-on. Sexual repression is pervasive, and even revered and rewarded, in our various cultures. the “great” religions ALL denigrate women, insisting that they clothe themselves modestly, even ridiculously severe, in order to prevent their cult’s male counterparts from seeing some part of the female form unclothed and, God forbid, becoming sexually stimulated. Could it be that this is so because the “books” of God were all written by men? With such constant cultural reinforcement of repression and sexual perversion, how can we, men and women both, ever become free and equal in our sexual attitudes, expressions and desires? I dispair that the solutions for such pervasive “sexual abuse” will ever be found. But I’ll accept your sincere wish for healing as a positive, albeit a small first step. I encourage your safety and joy in your adventure.

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