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OP-ED | Rape Cases Highlight Need for Important Conversations

by | Apr 20, 2013 5:47am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion, Torrington

According to the arrest warrants, a 13-year-old girl said “no.” Not just once. Multiple times. But an 18-year-old football player had sex with her anyway.

By the law, by any normal, decent person’s standards, that’s called rape. It doesn’t matter if she snuck out of her house at 3 a.m.; it doesn’t matter if she smoked pot for the first time; it doesn’t matter if that 18-year-old football player plied her with alcohol first. She said “no.” More than once. And when a girl says “No, I don’t want to have sex,” then a man is supposed to respect that.

Otherwise, there’s a term for him: Rapist.

Not “promising football player with scholarship to college.”

And there’s a term for her: Rape Victim.

Not “whore” or “snitch.” Not someone who has “ruined a promising young life.”

And there’s a term for what happened: Rape.

Not “tryst,” the gobsmackingly offensive and misleading term used by the Waterbury Republican-American to describe the Torrington case.

The Republican-American published a whiny editorial after being criticized for their coverage of the case. “Unfortunately, it’s considered bad form in today’s social climate to “blame the victim . . .” they complained. 

Really? Because blaming a 13-year-old girl for her own rape after she said “no” multiple times is something you guys miss from the Good Old Days?

The Republican-American is a perfect example of why I, as the mother of a teenage daughter who is not far off from leaving for college, am both terrified that I have not prepared her well enough to protect herself and enraged that rape culture remains so firmly entrenched despite all the progress women have made since I left for college.

When I was a teen, my father warned me to drink slowly on dates to make sure that I never consumed more alcohol than the guy taking me out. Dad knew that folks like the Republican-American editorial board would blame me if something happened and I’d had a few too many.

Likewise it’s become somewhat of a joke in our house that I’ve been giving my daughter the “Roofie talk” (never accept drinks from strangers or leave her drink unattended) since she was in elementary school, when she would look at me and say “Mom, I’m too young to even GO TO A BAR!”

But it’s not a joke. Parents of girls have these talks, starting even before we think our girls are going to be exposed to the dangers, because we have to prepare our daughters for a world in which know they will be blamed and judged, even if they are the victim of a crime.

Or even if they aren’t. A guy who works at the neighborhood deli, the one where all the kids from the local middle school go after school, called out “Walk of Shame” to my daughter one morning when she was walking home from a sleepover at friend’s house around the corner in our quiet, family neighborhood. She took it in stride. “If he knew anything about me, he’d know how wrong he is.”  I was furious. I wanted to go over and beat the bejesus out of him. What kind of man thinks he has the right to say that to a teenage girl? Too many men, obviously — just look at the Republican-American editorial board or sign in to your Twitter account and check out #streetharassment.

What I want to know is: where are the parents of boys in all this? I have a son, and I have lengthy conversations with him about relationships and how to treat women.

Where were the parents of the Yale fraternity students who marched through the freshman quad shouting “No means yes, yes means anal?” Those Ivy League Yale boys are supposed to be the future leaders of America. The thought makes me shudder.

Where were the parents of the boys who found a drunk girl in Steubenville, Ohio? Instead of looking after her or finding her a safe ride home like I would expect my son to do, they thought it would be funny to urinate on her, rape her, and take pictures of the whole thing instead. What sorts of conversations were happening (or not happening) in those homes and in that community?

And in Torrington: what would lead the police to initially lead the public to believe it was consensual when it’s clear from the arrest warrant the girl said “no” multiple times and the accused already had an previous assault charge. Really? This surely exacerbated the cyberbullying that the victim experienced, blaming her for her own rape.

{media_3}Which leads me to another thing — where are the parents of those “nice kids” who were writing such vile things about a 13-year-old child online?

These incidents highlight the importance of many conversations we need to have in this country — about rape culture and how the news media covers rape, about online behavior, about common decency. But the most important conversations are the ones parents must have with their sons about respecting women. If you see a drunk girl, picture your sister, your mother, your cousin. Treat her with respect and get her home safely.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.

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(12) Archived Comments

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 20, 2013  3:57pm


You missed a couple points: some of the people supporting the MVP Gonzales only support him on one issue: raising bail and getting an adequate defense. Nothing more implied because the facts as known aren’t pretty. At one point there was some concern about his getting adequate representation given the high profile nature of the case. That seems to have faded away.

Stigmatizing by teens (including stigmatizing young girls who use promiscuity to attract older students) is nothing new nor should it be discouraged by other teens. It helps reinforce the social standard that statutory rape isn’t acceptable—even if it is consensual.

There’s a fine line between blaming the victim and acknowledging there are precautions that should be taken and this was a situation that had trouble written all over it before it happened. It could stand as a case study in “ways to get raped and then say no”.

There’s a scene in the Ann Hathaway movie “Havoc” that illustrates the point: No may mean No but if you put yourself into a situation to get gang raped and then do get raped then filing criminal charges may be within the law but it doesn’t earn you any points for intelligence or earn you much sympathy.

These are younger kids and some errant judgement is to be expected.

As far as the Register Citizen goes, do they carry your column? I thought not. I thought the Reg did a great job with this FAQ: much better than Hearst could.


posted by: johningreenwich | April 20, 2013  4:02pm

Great article. I was involved in a case like this recently. I would only add that people need to realize the long term effect this sort of thing has on girls, even if they didn’t say no. Girls can be too scared to say no. And having a bad experience like that at a young age can affect their relationships for years and indeed for their entire lives.

posted by: Noteworthy | April 20, 2013  11:42pm

Where are the parents of the boys?? I agree. Like columns before this one, the author also fails to ask where are the parents of the girl? There are monster sized short comings from all quarters.

posted by: saramerica | April 22, 2013  6:41am


“if you put yourself into a situation to get gang raped and then do get raped”
Wow Goat Boy - thanks for being Example A of Rape Culture. I always know I can count on you.

posted by: Greg | April 22, 2013  11:42am

I remember my mother teaching me some old-school saying such as “don’t go looking for trouble, it will find you” and an old russian saying that is loosely translated into “If you don’t want to smell, don’t roll around in s**t”.  My father constantly reminded me in one form or another to “think before you act” and on prom night all i got was “no life changing events, son”. As a stupid teenager at the time, I found myself in trouble here and there and did some bonehead things as most teens do, but as i grew to college age a lot of that stuck with me and I had the sense, drunk or not, to pull the pin and GTFO from a deteriorating situation. I’d go as far as to say that my success in life was driven by that sort of message growing up to stay out of trouble, make smart decisions,and think before I act. 

Sara- you coaching your daughter on staying out of compromising situations and think for herself is exactly what you should be doing.  The problem is, not enough parents coach their daughters as you do, or parents coach their sons as my mother and father did.  Values and morals come from somewhere; seems like kids these days certainly aren’t getting it from mom and dad.

The entire Torrington situation, in my view, is a systemic failure of parenting.  These football heros should have never been partying in such a manner, nor should 13 year old girls be out of sight of mom and dad at any point in time, nevermind a late night party with drugs involved.  Did mom and dad wonder where their precious daughters were that night? Did they even notice they were gone?  Oh, and the twitter bruhaha…don’t get me started.  Interesting that there were a number of females in that group…

To your first point- No means No means No, and you’re completely accurate that under the law circumstances surrounding the situation don’t matter- The girl said no and rape ensued. Prosecute and ruin any chance of a useful future for these football heros.

Tragic as it is, perhaps it can be used as an example when a whole lot of people don’t think before they act and the remaining responsible parents on the planet can teach their kids to not put themselves in a bad situation. Maybe parents can take a closer look at what their kids REALLY do and *gasp* not let their teenage kids go party and drink and smoke weed. What a thought in 2013 America!

posted by: ASTANVET | April 22, 2013  12:55pm

I teach my daughter every day to be mindful of her surroundings - to be careful of who she associates with, how she dresses - I’m not trying to make her fearful, but aware - It is an all too familiar story, and a sad commentary on our society as a whole that we lack virtue, we lack a moral compass and that young girls get victimized by their attacker, then by the attacker’s friends - and lastly by the court system who tend to not prosecute these kinds of events to the fullest extent of the law.  I was reading about that young girl in California who killed herself because of a similar incident… we as a whole have lost our way, it is reflected in our culture, our entertainment, our music, and literature - I pray for my beautiful daughter every day that she may never have to experience this kind of barbarism.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | April 22, 2013  1:17pm

Noteworthy - do you have to be aware of where your car is positioned every time you park it in a multistory lot? I do. Every woman does. So please spare me the victim blaming. There’s a huge difference between the hero worshiping mistake of a 13 (THIRTEEN) year old girl and the mistake of an EIGHTEEN year old MAN. STOP BEING A RAPE APOLOGIST.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 22, 2013  6:58pm


What about music and its glamor of jailbait through the years?

There’s the Stones with Stray Cat Blues “I know you’re Just 15 Years Old; I don’t want your ID”. Not to mention Elvis’ and Bill Wyman’s little things on the side (like Mandy Smith).

There was Chuck Berry’s arrest for Jailbait.

Biggie Small’s “Dead Wrong”. Lyrics near unprintable.“I like ‘em young, fresh and green with no hair in between, know what I mean?”

And the always politically correct Ted Nugent’s song aptly titled “Jailbait”. One of many songs in the rock canon sporting the same title.

Do you think guys know its wrong to take advantage of young girls?

Many (all) even know the meaning of the word jailbait.

At least US society moved beyond honor killing.

I don’t have answers here outside of parental and formal education. Are you suggesting banning music that glorifies jailbait Sarah? Or just education?

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | April 23, 2013  8:31am

Oh for heaven’s sake, Birdseye - can you stop parroting ridiculous party line crap? The kids in Stuebenville went to church every Sunday. Stuebenville is home to any number of church camps. Did that stop them from behaving like utter and complete animals? NO. So stop blaming the ACLU and the separation of church and state. Being an upstanding human being doesn’t require having the 10 commandments plastered on the schoolhouse wall. Just look at the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Just look at “I go to church every sunday” Jerry Sandusky. I don’t care if you’re an atheist or you go to mass every morning. Your actions matter more than how many times you recite a prayer.

posted by: Joebigjoe | April 23, 2013  11:37am

This is not a tough one in any way. She was 13, said No many times and was raped by an 18 year old. He needs to go to jail.

Her parents then need to go to jail for a much shorter period, but they need to see the inside of a cell to send a message to all parents to do your freaking jobs.

Unfortunately I know women that have been raped. Not one of them was a slut or a drunkard and they didnt ask for it in any way. However, in each situation they were raped by men that they were friends with in places where they couldnt flee, and with the use of a weapon. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM said in retrospect that there were signals or friends had expressed dislike or distrust of their male friends. That would be my message to women to keep them safe. Stop listening to yourself when one of your friends expresses any concern about some male that you have a relationship with. You are wrong and they are right.

posted by: ASTANVET | April 23, 2013  4:14pm

Sarah, not to nit-pick, but you know the “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution, and only safeguards against a state sponsored religion - while that may appear off topic, I think it is important to differentiate faith, and organized religion.  After all, our morals come from somewhere - our values come from somewhere… by eliminating all references to faith from the public square, and the public discourse, you eliminate the possibility for a higher authority, and subjugate us to the rule of man - as we have seen, when human kind is left to its own devices, moral relativism becomes the model for society.  When morals are relative, you get instances like the situation in your story.  The broader question would be have the secularist has helped or hurt society.  While I am not particularly religious, I do have deep faith.  There is a place for that in society - and perhaps in parenting, and in shaping our public policy.  If you’re referring to the Jefferson letters of 1805 where he calls for the ‘separation of church and state’ - I think we could have a debate on the intent of those letters, but as for now - and aside from judicial activism, there is no call for a freedom FROM religion as you seem to be advocating.

posted by: SocialButterfly | April 24, 2013  1:59pm

Sarah Darer Littman:  I can’t understand the purpose of your madness.  You highlight the need for important conversations—and then you systmatically discredit all of them. You shouldn’t get upset over the views of others, including mine. We all like you Sarah, please do not take our comments so seriously, Have a great day!

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