One fall night, in the early months of my high school freshman year, I went to a small gathering of friends after one of my volleyball games. Actually, the people there weren’t necessarily friends; more like one close girl friend and a bunch of guys from the class above me. I had known them all for a while since we had all attended the same small school of 200 kids, but I did not know them well.
My one vivid memory of that night is of me sitting around a table, playing drinking games with Bartles & James, and actually feeling pretty “cool” that I was the only freshman hanging out with a bunch of sophomores. And that’s pretty much all I remember from that night, until waking up the next morning, in the guest bedroom of my house, with a murderous headache and a hospital bracelet on my wrist.
I still don’t know the whole truth of that night, of what happened during those twelve hours of blackout; at age fourteen I was too ashamed to ask anyone who was there what really happened. So instead, over the past twenty-some-odd years, I have been left with hazy bits and pieces of that night, recounted to me by my peers (who heard stories second hand), and learned from the whisper-filled school halls.
Basically, according to the whispers, I chased the wine coolers with a mix of all sorts of alcohol, and subsequently started barfing everywhere. Because of all the barfing, my friend, probably with coaxing from the guys, decided to give my limp body a shower, and I was therefore naked, for at least part of the night. For years I was teased, by one of the guys in particular, about being the girl who like to party naked. You can imagine how awesome that made me feel about myself.
Some of the rumors from that night placed me “behind closed doors” with one of the guys who left the room with “a really big smile.” I know that things did not go as far as they did with the victim in Steubenville, but in the same breath, I know that things happened to me and to my body that I was not aware of and certainly did not consent to.
That is all I really know about what happened that night, and truth be told, I don’t want to know any more.
But what I do know is that I thank God for two things:
First of all, I am thankful that I had one girlfriend with me who didn’t leave me there by myself. She had the wherewithal to call her older brother who came to get us and took me home to my parents.
In retrospect, I can’t imagine the shock and disappointment my parents must have felt that night; the thought makes me shudder. Upon seeing me in that condition, nearly lifeless and incoherent, they decided to take me to the emergency room to make sure I had not been given any drugs. My system was clean, except for, of course, the .2 blood alcohol level, so my parents took me back home to sleep it off.
If my girlfriend had not been there that night, I don’t know where I would have woken up.
Secondly, I am beyond grateful that the days of social media and instant image-sharing had not yet begun. Otherwise, I am quite certain there would be photos and/or videos of me being slung around, quite like young lady from Steubenville, circulating the interwebs. I am also pretty certain that there would be video footage of at least one of the guys talking about me, just like Michael Nodianos spoke about the young victim as being “deader than OJ Simpson’s wife.”
Though I like to be very forthcoming on my site, I’m surprised at myself for writing about this incident because it is truly the most degrading, humiliating thing that has ever happened to me. However, ever since learning of the Steubenville incident, I have been unable to shake the similarities to my own story, and also, terrified with the thought that someday one of my daughters could be in the same situation.
I hope we, as parents and as a society, can learn from the countless lessons stirred up by the Steubenville case.
1) Respect for women.
It’s not only about how violence towards women (that gets shamelessly glorified in pop music and by the artists themselves) needs to stop, but it’s also, at the most basic level, about how men should treat, talk and think about women with respect. Even after all the progress women have made in our society, on the whole, women are still objectified and degraded down to the basest level in countless ways. Conversations about how to show respect to women, be them young ladies, young women, grown women, or elderly women, need to happen at a young age with our male population, particularly now that pornography is so rampant via the Internet. Young men need to know what is real, what is acceptable and what is humane. They also need to be reminded of the definition of consensual.
2) Teen alcohol and drug use:
Next there is the subject, or rather the epidemic, of alcohol and drug use among minors. I have a lot of thinking to do about this subject before my kids get into their tween/teen years because I, myself, partook in such actions (yes, even after that night) and I just don’t know the answer on how best to approach it with my own kids. It’s an important issue for our society to talk about, an absolutely a topic for another blog post all together.
3) Do the right thing, no matter who is watching.
That is the motto of my Kindergarter’s school, and I love it (there should also be the disclaimer at the end, “whether this is going to get posted on YouTube or not”). Kids can sometimes get a misconception of what is the right thing, especially when their sports heroes and politicians are being exonerated left and right despite their wrong doings. No one is above the law or above social mores. Lance Armstrong is the first one who can talk about that issue. We all make mistakes, but there is always a price to pay.
4) Stand up for yourself!
This may be the most important lesson of all, from the young lady who has been brave enough to come forward against an entire town that is against her. I am inspired and impressed by her courage, despite the horrific scrutiny, criticism, and ridicule she is sure to face. I have been hemming and hahhing about publishing this post because of the negative feedback I might get, and it is NOTHING compared to what she is enduring. I send lots of love and courage to that young lady so that she may stay strong through this fight and come out the other side on her two feet.
I want all stories of this nature to remind us to have open dialogues we need to have with our kids, about having respect for one another and for being careful with drug and alcohol use. Some watch that video or hear the stories and think, “boys will be boys,” or that “well, she deserved what she had coming to her,” and that is precisely the mentality that needs to stop.
After the “party naked” night, I went on to have a wonderful high school experience. I ignored the rumors and pretended that the night never happened. I even became friends with the guys who were there that night because I blamed myself for the incident and wanted to just try to be normal and accepted. I’m even friends with some of them on Facebook, some could be reading this now. Though my story is different from the Steubenville case on many levels, I needed to write this post to ease my own shame I’ve been carrying for years. I have the unnamed 16 year old victim to thank for that.