Where is the challenge to the idea that their lives really are “over”? There is something deeply harmful in all of the adults reinforcing the idea that the lives of teen-age boys are destroyed when a girl says what they have done. There is also something incomplete about just replying that they deserved the consequences (as much as they do). For one thing, it can mean asking a sixteen-year-old to be the one to judge the weight of her own trauma. It isn’t trivializing the seriousness of the sentence to say that teen-agers always think, when one door is closed, that everything is over, and that it’s the job of grownups to explain that it isn’t. A different life is not a worthless one. (Absent parents, not incidentally, are a theme of this story.)
There are more important and complicated questions beyond that, both practical and ethical. Telling those teen-agers that there shouldn’t have been consequences might mean another victim, in another town, years in the future. It also affects what sort of men the boys become, and one has to think that Richmond and Mays, too, have an interest in that. Does it destroy a teen-ager’s life to take him off the path of being an adult rapist? Perhaps it is too abstractly (even annoyingly) philosophical to ask what the “better” life is—one in which you have a remote shot at being in the NFL, or one in which you might be a person who treats others decently? Still, the question is worth asking.
I’ve been just appalled by the tone of the press coverage of this whole thing, which reinforces my impression that we just don’t take rape all that seriously in this country. Just the other morning I was listening to a podcast by a local individual in which he partly opined in favor of some comedian’s “It was just a joke!” defense of a joke he’d made about rape.
These boys are teenagers. Theoretically they have sixty more years on this planet, give or take. Whether or not their lives are ‘destroyed’ is up to them — and they are not off to a good start. My sympathies don’t lie with them, however. They lie with a girl who was raped and then shamed for having been raped. Where are the cries for “victim’s rights”?