I’ve been reading this story (and its associated MeFi comments) about a 15-year-old Alabama girl who went off to college and was abused by almost the entire football team. She ended up a drug addict as well. In the Metafilter discussion, I was surprised to see so many people arguing that 15-year-olds are incapable of living on their own and making the right choices. Snookums was 16 when he went to Uni, and he turned out fine. I have to wonder if the girl’s home schooling was more to blame than her age. It had to be a shock to go from virtual isolation to living in a big college town environment. (Although when asked about this, the Snook responded that if a group of large women had wanted to make his 16-year-old self their plaything, he would’ve been all about that. It’s just that he was a nerd and no one offered.) 🙂

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  1. Needless to say, this story is ALL OVER the TV and radio over here, Kris. I had no idea that it was this big, though. Anyway, I think I have to go with age and worldliness as two of the main culprits here. The Snook is one of the exceptions here…remember that this girl was from rural Alabama (trust me, Childersburg is tiny), was home-schooled (home-schooled kids, in my professional experience, are often almost frighteningly naive about the way the world actually works–I know it’s a gross generalization to say that, but I’m just basing it on my own observations on the job), and wasn’t even old enough to drive a car. I’m sure she was smart enough to make responsible decisions in several areas, but she was really thrown into a social and cultural environment–freshman year on campus–where even the most social and mature and “regular”-age folks feel uncomfortable. Bad decisions and bad experiences were almost inevitable…though not to this horrific extent, to be sure. Ugh, what an awful story on all sides, huh?

    (And let me split hairs for a second–the article refers to the girl living “down ROUTE 280,” when in actuality HIGHWAY 280 is a major road here [it connects Birmingham and my own beloved Auburn, for one thing]–Birmingham’s newer and richer sections extend out far along this very highway. No one here calls it “Route 280,” but you just know the author used that name to make us seem a little more Green Acres-ish. Dadgummit all!)

  2. What a sad story.

    As far as the age thing goes, I think it’s got to depend on the person. She obviously wasn’t ready for that environment and might not have been even at 18. I sure wasn’t ready to leave home when I was 15, or even 16. Others, however, might have been fine.

    I’m always hearing about parents testing their 4 & 5 year olds to see if they’re ready for kindergarten. Where are the tests to see if a kid’s ready, socialogically, for college?

    As much as I hate saying this, women really are more at risk at university than men, even at 17 or 18. And their biggest allies are their peers, that freshman gang that we all had to take care of us at those first parties. Very sad that she didn’t have that.

  3. speaking only for myself, i wasn’t realy for college at 18. i think a part of me knew that which may have led to my decision to go to ND, a safe place by most college standards.

    i also either wasn’t mature enough to commit myself to my school work or i never developed good study habits in HS.

    the funny thing is that i had the chance to skip ahead in grade school but my parents said no. i think i was a little resentful at the time (can you say big-time overachiever? where did all of that drive go?) but i am so grateful to them for having made the decision they did.

  4. Um, she was raped. The cause of this is neither her inexperience or young age. Blame should lie with the attackers, not the victim. This could have easily happened to an 18 year-old (and probably has). While I feel that 15 is too young to be in college, I don’t think that should be the focus of the story. Additionally, it is very common for victims of sexual assault to turn to drugs, etc. as well as promiscuity (as the article states).

  5. totally on board with that, little j. i was addressing the too-young-for-college debate more than anything, though one could argue that she might have been less of a target than your average 18 yo freshman.

  6. I’m on board as well, LittleJ. The rape was not her fault. As we’re all aware, date rape is tragically commen on college campuses, and its victims are all ages. Having spent a few years in college working in date rape education, however, I think that with more education about date rape, more confidence, maturity, and a closer peer group, her risk of rape might have lessened and she might have had a slightly greater ability to stop the cycle of abuse. This risk would still have been high, but lower. My freshman orientation in college included date rape education, alcohol education, upper class advisors, and a lot of opportunity to bond with my fellow frosh. I’ve got to think that all of this was not in vain.

    I’ll repeat that I don’t think that any of this is her fault! She was the victim in this senario. The answer isn’t to blame the victim, or just tell women how to avoid dangerous situations. People will continue to be raped as long as there are still rapists. As our college date rape education program grew while I was in school, we began to broaden our focus and spend more time in the male dorms and fraternities educating young men about what rape is, and that condoning your friend’s “she was wasted and I got some” stories is condoning rape (and just imagine that it’s your sister, girlfriend, friend in that story, etc).

    So after all of that, I just want to say that I think her age and naivity (sp?) put here at greater risk than the typical college freshman, and I don’t think that the school administrators or her parents did enough to lower that risk and potentially prevent what happened.

    Sorry to turn your site into my soapbox, Kris.

  7. I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here, LJ. Are you suggesting that statutory rape (i.e. sex with a minor) is exactly equivalent to rape between adults? Interesting. I guess if you go that route, you have to say that minors aren’t able to give consent, no matter how mature they are or what they think. But then magically on their 18th birthday they are? It’s an iffy area.

    There wasn’t anything in the article that stated that she was forcibly raped. Of course, I’m sure the intimidation factor of a guy many years older and many times bigger than you could be just as, uh, “persuasive”. But why in the hell didn’t she tell anybody??

    See, this is my problem in these situations. I put myself in the situation and I cannot fathom NOT going to the authorities. I read about girls who take showers and wait four days before mentioning it to a friend and it INFURIATES me. On one hand I know that’s totally insensitive. Rape victims have had a horribly traumatic experience and not everybody is as strong as me. (And it’s possible that I wouldn’t react how I think in that situation.) But on the other hand, this is exactly the type of thing that ALLOWS RAPE TO CONTINUE. Rapists (especially in the Alabama case) target someone that they don’t expect to turn them in. The only way to prevent that is to not be that kind of person. I make allowances for a 15-year-old, because she literally might not have had any rape awareness education while she was home-schooled. But just about everybody else has heard at least one horror story and should (hopefully) know what to do. So I find it hard to dig up sympathy for women who don’t respect themselves enough to go after their attacker.

    Ugh. I sound terrible. I don’t mean to condemn anybody in this situation. It’s just an issue I have with any women I perceive to be “weak”. I just can’t fathom anybody who doesn’t respect herself enough to speak up. I guess that’s why I love y’all. You guys are some strong chicas. 🙂

    (Little, on a sidenote – I know you’ve done a lot of work/research in this area, and I know that you’re “strong” too. How do I get past this problem? Is it just an issue of not actually knowing enough about the situation and what these women go through?)

  8. Well, let’s do some thinking on this sitch. I mean, I do understand your view, Howie, about how you question why women don’t go to the authorities, etc. It’s good of you to admit that you wouldn’t know how you would really react in a situation, b/c the emotional distress of forcible (and persuasive) rape is enough to make anyone completely question their inner strengh/what-would-you-do-ifs. However, the broader issue is this – in a nation (US I’m talking about, here) where hundreds of thousands of reported and completed rape-kits go untested/unmatched, and the police contest that $500 is too much to pay to do a DNA match on rapists to their victim, I wouldn’t be too quick to say who’s weak. Sure, I can relate to that- I mean, I would like to believe that in the same situation, I would report my attacker (or try, if unidentified). But, when women feel like the authorities will not go through the due process to assist, why go through the mental anguish, fear, embarrassment of intimate questioning, and the invasive rape kit process to be told you aren’t worth the money? Just some thoughts.

  9. VERY good point TD. I had no idea the situation was that bad.

  10. i think another factor contributing to women not reporting rapes is the fact that not all rapes are cut and dried as being attacked in a back alley.

    date rape can be a grey area for the victim, especially when alcohol is involved, the victim begins or continues to date the guy involved, if the perpetrator is a friend, etc. how do we define an act of drunk sex if the girl only kinda regrets it the next day? if the woman is sober and doesn’t say no is she implicitly (and legally) consenting to the act?

    factor in the stress, possible shame, and potential failure of taking a case with similar circumstances to court and you can begin to understand why some women—even those who define themselves on being strong and independent—choose to forget the incident as opposed to reporting it. not that any of that makes it right or good, by any means.

  11. Well, thanks, Howie. It’s good that these things at least inspire talk.

  12. I know it was unclear before, sorry, but I was not referring to the statutory aspect of it. At least the first couple nights, it seems that these guys got this girl drunk, deliberately, and had sex with her. That is rape whether you are 15 or 50. In fact, as brigita points out, that is one of the biggest problems with date rape, esp. on college campuses, and it being reported, etc. I know more than one woman at ND during our four years there alone who was date raped when she was intoxicated. As far as statutory rape goes…that’s another discussion. Now, in answer to what you raise, Pants (and believe me, I totally feel your frustration with the fact that many rapes are not reported/attackers pursued)…A HUGE reason, in my opionion, for this is that, regardless of what many of us say, in our society, we focus attention on the victims. Even in this discussion, we have talked little about the men in this case, and almost exclusively about the girl – she’s too young, immature, she should have reported it etc. I am NOT saying that people here are saying it’s here fault. But our culture lends itself to these sorts of ‘solutions’, which place the burden on the victim, instead of addressing the REAL problem at hand. When you discuss things in that manner, you inevitably end up DISEMPOWERING women (as a whole, I believe) and especially rape survivors. Additionally, what happens to those cases that are reported, etc.? I know a story at ND where a woman was raped by a ‘friend’. She reported it to ND. The administration found enough guilt in him to kick him off campus, but not out of school!!! So what kind of message does that send to this woman who relived the entire experience, just so she could see her attacker all the time around campus?!?! I don’t know about you, but it sure wouldn’t encourage me to tell anyone else about it. Add that reality on to the very real psychological reaction where the victim is likely to blame herself anyway, and that on top of [my theory] that women in American culture blame themselves for everything in general, and it would be pretty tough to put yourself out there. There are SO many more things at work here, you could write a billion books about it. It’s similar, as I see it, to women in abusive relationships. It’s easy to be on the outside and say “Get Out!”, but the reality of the situation – ie the dynamics at play, the cycle of abuse, the financial, emotional, and psychological barriers – are far more complicated. One final thing, Pants. You are a very ‘strong’ woman (I don’t really feel comfortable with that word, but I’ll go with it). But American society does not encourage this amongst women. To come out of white, middle to upper class american culture as a truly strong, independently minded women is to ‘win’. It is to subvert the dominant paradigm. Not every woman is so lucky…So, in a way, it is a matter of not understanding what survivors went through when they were attacked, but even moreso, not understanding, perhaps, what they went through their entire life before the attack. I would say the best way ‘to get past this issue’ as you say, is to work with sexual assault survivors. Or, if that’s unlikely, read first-hand accounts of their stories. Once you start to meet a number of strong, amazing women who you find did not report the crime (or at least not until much later) it just makes you see it in a different light. Okay, one more thing, and then I’ll shut up. I think you are right to be so uncomfortable with it, Pants. But I would just ask that you shift the focus off the victim and onto the attacker. Even in encouraging women to report sexual assault. Women should name names. They should point to their attacker in a crowd and say “He raped me!” I truly believe that. I believe that the shame should be shifted from the victim to the attacker. But I don’t think that will happen by saying, “You stupid weak girl. What an idiot! Why didn’t you say anything?!” I’m exaggerating, obviously, but you get the point. Cheers! 🙂

  13. Man, this is turning out to be an excellent discussion. Thanks for your post, Little. It helped a lot!

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