Monday, March 18, 2013

What I wish I knew

Today, two high school football players were found guilty of raping a young girl who was drunk at a party. CNN eulogized their lost innocence and childhood with nary a word about what this girl lost. Other news sources did a better job of expanding on a mountain town with a myopic focus on high school sports and the culture that created this nightmare, where children still don't GET that what they did was wrong, and aduilts excuse the behaviors of these children.

When I was in seventh grade, I lived in a mountain town. To be specific, I lived in Hickville Kentucky. Like most small, mountain towns, school social groups were structured fairly precisely. The rich kids were always the "in" crowd. With them were the athletes. Sometimes the athletes were also the rich kids, but they were also the kids the rich kids admired for their athletic abilities. There was a ring of periperhal students outside this core group, those who would sacrifice their morals and their individuality to try to play the game and be accepted by the "in" crowd. Then, there was the outcasts, the poor, odd, and left-over kids. I was always in the outcasts group. I honestly had no desire to be anywhere else. They were the only kids I found authentic.

However, in seventh grade, there was an in flux of county and private school kids who came into the city school for middle and high school. Most of the students were related in some way, had known each other their entire lives. When the kids whose parents could afford the tuition to the city schools came, there was a shifting in the social groups that had existed in the years since I had moved to Hickville. There was one private Catholic school but it stopped in middle school, so those kids came into the city school for middle school.

There was a girl who was one of the rich kids. She was kind of shy. She had short brown hair and brown eyes. Unlike most of the rich kids, she wasn't snotty with me, just quiet and shy. Seventh we were thirteen that year, all of us. The middle and high schools were basically merged. We interacted with the high schoolers in a regular basis. My sister was a senior and she was part of the "in" crowd that I didn't understand. This girl very quickly into our school year began dating someone in my sister's grade.

I remember thinking it was so weird that a seventh grader was dating a high school senior. They made a rule that you had to be IN High school to go to the Senior prom that year because of this girl dating the senior. Everything about that relationship seemed wrong to me. I was just barely a teen and I couldn't put my finger on what was so wrong about the situation.

Like this current situation, sports ruled our world in Hickville. The high school football team was the center of the school universe. It was only in reading the analysis about this current case that I could put real words to what happened that fall, what felt so wrong on so many levels that year, but not one adult ever did anything about what happened.

I think it was homecoming, but I'm honestly not entirely sure. What I know is that the "in" crowd was having a big party after a home football game. All of the seventh graders were trying to figure out how to crash the party. This girl was guaranteed to get to go to the party because her senior boyfriend was taking her. I went home that weekend with no thought of what was going on. I was majorily clueless about the social workings of the popular children in school.

Monday morning, this girl was missing from school. The rumors about the party were horrible. By the time she came to school on Tuesday, her behavior seemed to confirm what was being said about her. They said she got drunk that night and acted like a slut. They said she never came out of a back bedroom. They said she took on the entire football team on by one throughout that night. When she came to school, she seemed broken and sad. Within weeks, the rumors were that she went over the mountains to the city, like all girls in the school who landed pregnant, that she got an abortion.

This girl only made it a few weeks before she disappeared from school. Her parents sent her somewhere else for the rest of the school year. I wasn't her friend. I didn't get a chance to speak to her personally to confirm or deny the rumors. I know she as gone all the rest of that school year. I went to a different school the next year and came back in ninth grade. She came back that year as well. She was quiet but kind. She never spoke much. She came from money, so eventually everyone accepted her again. However, she was never the same again. She looked different. Her eyes were muted and sad whenever I saw her after that.

You know what I didn't do? I didn't tell an adult what was being said. I didn't tell a teacher or my parents nor anyone else who might be able to help her. I couldn't understand what was being said, only that it seemed wrong. Yet, I didn't understand then what I should have grasped. I didn't tell the guidance counselor, nor the Principal. I wish I had told someone. It wasn't my burden to bear, but I heard the same rumors everyone else heard. I should have told someone.

She was thirteen. I cannot grasp how or why her parents were letting her date a 17 year old in retrospect. However, even worse is that if the rumors were true, this girl was plied with alcohol at an age when she should have still be playing with baby dolls. If what was said was true, then she was gang raped by the entire football team. Not one person spoke about how she was hurt. Not one person worried about her and what was taken from her, if not by an attack then by rumors of an attack.

The reason I didn't tell anyone about the rumors was because the party was held at a teacher's home. I assumed everyone already knew what happened that night, since a high school English teacher gave the kids alcohol and let them party at her house all night. She was supposed to be there supervising the party. I assumed no one would react because the teacher allowed the party in the first place.

When I read the stories worried about the future stolen from these boys today, I remember that classmate. No one ever talked about nor cared what was robbed from her that weekend. No one helped her. No one called the police. When I see concern for two teen rapists, I wish I had done something different when I was thirteen. It's several decades late, but I can take a stand and say it is NOT okay to rape a girl who is drunk. Drunk is not consent for sex, and definitely not consent for multiple someones to attack you.

I keep my blog annonnymous. I won't tell the nam of the girl of that long-ago party. I still don't know if the rumors are true and she was gang raped, or if the rumors were lies and she was viciously bullied by rumors. I just know I didn't get angry and horrified enough long ago. Today, I know when to be horrified. Too bad we're still having to talk about it and remind people they are supposed to be horrified. If I could, I would tell that girl I am sorry.

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