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Thumbs down: Young men need stronger message on sexual assault

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 12:23 AM

When it comes to sexual assault, America still has a blame-game problem.

Why did the girl put herself in that situation? Out late, dressed like that and drinking?

That bias has been a factor in high-profile cases such as the assault on a West Virginia teenage girl at a high school party in Steubenville, Ohio, last year and thousands of other incidents we never hear about.

Reminding young women to watch what they drink and their surroundings is still good advice, but we need to spell out caution and responsibilities just as clearly for young men.

“We can stop saying things like ‘she was drunk’ or ‘she was wearing promiscuous clothing’ or ‘how dare she think she could walk across 3rd Avenue alone,’” Amanda White of Huntington’s CONTACT Rape Crisis Center told Marshall University’s Take Back the Night rally this week. “We can say that the only place where rape starts is with the rapist, and that’s where it ends.”

Clearly, there is much in today’s popular culture — from movies and music to fashion and social media — that undercuts that message. The image of a carefree party world, where irresponsible behavior has no consequences, is very inviting.

But it is not reality. Just ask the two Steubenville High School football players now serving sentences in juvenile detention.

As we work to prevent sexual assault, particularly on our high school and college campuses, we need a stronger message to young men that excessive drinking and drug use, peer pressure and immaturity is a dangerous brew for them, too.

The poor decisions that often result can have life-changing consequences for both men and women.

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