Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Reactions to the Ohio rape case

March 20, 2013

There are times when teen voices are comforting. This week the Steubenville rape trial involved teens in harsh situations. I listened to our peer educators’ discussion and was reminded that most teens are doing the right thing.

An example of the right thing is our Peer Leadership Program. Sponsored by the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, our program trains teens to become peer leaders and present healthy messages about drug and alcohol prevention to younger students. We regularly discuss consent and the effects of alcohol on decision-making.

Any young person can make a mistake, of course, but I am constantly encouraged by the mature decisions and courage of our peer educators and peer leaders.

As an adult I feel responsible for modeling respect for every person. Nonconsensual sexual acts are simply not OK. Each person is a person of worth.

A few of our teens’ thoughts about the Ohio trial:

• Serena Green: This trial is an example of how many people don’t fully understand what rape is. Rape can be anything from nonconsensual sex to any undesired sexual activity forced upon an individual. The boys’ lives are far from over, though. They will spend a few years in a juvenile facility, avoiding adult charges, and be released. They will go on living their lives, forever knowing what they have done, and if they have any honor, will feel the weight of the wrong forevermore.

• Anonymous: Basically I’m pretty disgusted by how the media is handling it, saying things like “those poor boys” and saying “oh she was drunk.” I get really mad in general about victim blaming, and I think the root problem in our society is sexism. It pisses me off that someone would ignore a victim’s pain to say they were “asking for it.” It’s like blaming someone who doesn’t have a security system for being robbed. Just because they didn’t have it doesn’t mean that they didn’t lose things. Also, rape in general doesn’t seem to be understood. I was watching a television program, and this is going to sound silly, but there was a quote that “rape is murdering the soul,” and I think that that seems like a perfect definition.

• Amanda Campbell: I think it’s a conspicuous, prime and very sad example of what I’ve heard termed as our rape culture: that the victim is blamed for the rape because of how they act, what they wear, etc. That is a bunch of garbage. No one “asks” to be abused in any way, and blaming them for their abuse only perpetuates their suffering and an environment that allows for abuse, especially rape. Saying a woman dressed with a short skirt is asking for rape is congruous to saying someone who doesn’t have an armed security guard is asking to be robbed: it’s just plain illogical and unjustifiable. People should be respected for their beliefs, but if one thinks like that, they should never speak that way to abuse victims. It also insults men by assuming that sexual attraction leads them to do something so nefarious as rape. I firmly believe humans are far more benevolent than for that to be an intrinsic instinct. I wish the best for that young woman and her family, and I hope the young men never do such a thing again.

• Logan Weakland: Although I am glad they apologized, I feel the sentences are appropriate, as Ohio law dictates they will be labeled as rapists from now until they die, and I feel this is appropriate because the scars they have carved in that girl’s life will never dilapidate nor be forgotten, and they deserve to carry a burden now just as she does. As for their time in jail, it is fitting just as any punishment with the addition of the label.

Were others responsible for this crime? Are we responsible for the actions of others? I feel that we do not always directly influence the acts of others. Obviously, esteem-damaging comments and pressure can influence people very clearly and directly; however, I feel media such as movies, video games, internet videos etc. cannot be blamed for the actions of others. If an artist makes a video about a bank robber and the video is well made and produced, that is not a call to action for bank robbers in the making. I believe it is people who wrongly absorb media and act in illogical ways that really just lack common sense. It is entertainment and nothing more, and people take it in the wrong direction and society requires a scapegoat to make sense of tragic events.

However, individuals influence people, as I said, from emotionally assaulting others. Whether it is name calling or excluding people from a table without reason, we don’t know who those people are among us who have that crack in their mind that is ready to give way. Even in college settings among hundreds of people there are still those who feel alone and those who feel hated, and sometimes we cannot identify nor help those people on their own. Honestly, I believe the problem is not gun control in this country, it is not media that is affecting the minds of these people. Rather I feel it is the utter lack of attention we give to those with mental and emotional complications that leads to these tragedies; we just don’t mend the cracks of those who are breaking as much as we should.

And, finally, in reaction to this story on parenting sons (, Tam Okorn said: I love what she said. That’s how I always planned to raise my children, sons especially. She’s very wise and brings a lot of good points to view. And as for how responsible we are for what others do, it’s all about how you raise your children. You are responsible for what your children learn and how they act. Once they become teenagers, it’s a lot harder to teach them because they’re so stubborn. That’s when you have to trust that you taught them right and slowly let them go. And be there when they make mistakes and not judge.



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