Staten Island Advance Discusses Rape and Sexual Assault with Safe Horizonís Amy Edelstein

Posted on: Friday, April 5, 2013

Keywords: Safe Horizon, Amy Edelstein, Steubenville, Rape, Sexual Assault. Relationships

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Staten Island Advance

Society often downplays rape and the impact it has on a victim

By Elise McIntosh
April 1, 2013

A couple of Sundays ago, when sentencing two Ohio high school football players to juvenile jail for raping a 16-year-old girl, Judge Thomas Lipps issued a cautionary message to teens, urging them to reflect on “how you record things on the social media so prevalent today.”

He was referring to what ultimately led to the conviction of Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond: The trail of digital evidence that was posted online and via text messages, documenting how they raped their victim twice, with their hands, last summer after an alcohol-fueled party.

But what Judge Lipps so woefully neglected to address when admonishing the two defendants is the root of the problem — not social media, but the thinking that led to such victimization in the first place.

Mays still does not seem to apprehend the vileness of his actions. It was he who tweeted a photo of the girl naked and unconscious. A YouTube video, viewed well over a million times, showed a group of friends joking about the assault for 12 minutes.

So inebriated was the victim, she herself did not know that she had been assaulted until learning about it through text messages, forwarded photos and the infamous video itself.

When given the opportunity to speak at the trial’s conclusion, Mays said, “I would truly like to apologize ... No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.”

Richmond showed some remorse, sobbing as he said, “I would like to say I had no intentions to do anything like that. I’m sorry to put you through this.”

Still, it seems the two, who now will be registered as sex offenders, do not grasp the magnitude of their abuse — that they possibly have scarred a person for life and that they directly are responsible for their own downfall.

Amy Edelstein, manager of the St. George-based Safe Horizon, who works with sexual assault victims as young as 11, said it’s a big problem in our culture, that we increasingly are becoming desensitized to rape and its impact.

Citing the media as one culprit, she observed that “Sex and sexual imagery in music and TV continues to degrade and objectify women.”

She also pointed out that with sexual assault cases, society often blasts the victim, criticizing the way she dressed or labeling her as a slut, rather than blaming the offenders.

In the Ohio case, such taunting of the victim came shortly after the verdict was announced. Two girls were arrested the next day after posting hostile Facebook and Twitter comments in which one threatened homicide and the other, bodily harm.

And in CNN’s coverage of the verdict, correspondents showed sympathy toward the defendants, focusing on how their “promising” lives will be destroyed while totally glossing over how the victim’s life will be affected.

“I hear so much judgment and blaming of the victim,” remarked Ms. Edelstein, who views such verbal slamming as “a protective strategy,” a way for people to “set themselves apart from the victim,” to make themselves believe “this could not happen to them.”

But, oh, how it can. A survey by the New York Alliance Against Sexual Assault found that more than 1 in 6 students surveyed at four borough high schools reported experiencing sexual violence at some point.

And, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization, on average, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes.

When it happens to a teen, Ms. Edelstein said, they usually turn to their peers, not parents, for support.

That is a big problem, said Westerleigh-based licensed social worker Catherine Putkowski-O’Brien, who hears from many adolescent clients about how uncomfortable they are seeking their parents’ help, fearing they will be reprimanded.

The therapist, who could not stress enough the importance of omega replica having “calm, open dialogues” with teens, said one way to foster better communication with an adolescent is by asking a lot of questions. 

Beyond standard ones like “Where are you going?” “Will there be parental supervision?” and “Will there be alcohol?,” Ms. Putkowski-O’Brien suggests questions that get teens thinking about consequences.

For instance: “What do you think about what that kid posted online?” “What kind of messages are you sending with that outfit?” “If a boy tries to do this on a date or at a party, what will you do?” “If you engage in such-and-such behavior, will you like yourself?” 

Though “sexuality is a taboo topic,” Ms. Edelstein also encouraged parents to talk about it openly and honestly with teens, who are experimenting sexually yet still developing emotionally.

Because teens so often “negotiate sex non-verbally,” which can “make the lines of consent blurred,” she said parents need to talk to their children about healthier ways to handle sexual situations.

Even though “sexuality is taboo to talk about,” Ms. Edelstein said parents need offer guidance to teens, who are experimenting sexually yet still developing emotionally, on how to handle sexual encounters.

“In terms of educating young people,” parents need to “show them what consent looks like,” she said.



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