Steubenville-Inspired W.V. Youth Program Totally Misses the Point

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Photo: Uwe Umst?tter/Radius Images/Corbis

With the hopes of preventing another rape like the one that played out in nearby Steubenville, Ohio, a West Virginia federal prosecutor has launched a youth education program at eleven local football teams. Teaching kids not to take advantage of their drunk friends, right? Not exactly: U.S. attorney William J. Ihlenfeld hopes to prevent the next Steubenville by educating athletes about “being responsible when and making posts on the Internet,” the AP reports. That way if anyone gets raped, the thinking goes, at least no football player gets caught.

Ihlenfeld told the AP the Steubenville case "was eye opening - one night with high school students involved with alcohol, (smartphones) and social media, how that can change the lives of those involved forever."

Not that you can entirely blame Ihlenfeld for forgetting that flesh-and-blood humans hurt and were hurt in Steubenville. Far from branding those two, poor football players rapists for life, everyone seems to remember that social media raped a 16-year-old West Virginia girl. In his sentencing, Judge Thomas Lipps said he hoped the incident would serve as a cautionary lesson to other teenagers about "how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today," and Trent Mays's apology said that “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.” As opposed to, say, you shouldn’t have been raped, let alone photographed being raped.

Brace yourself for the rest of Ihlenfeld's logic:

The rape case "definitely played a role in causing us to think, 'Who do we need to focus upon?' We thought, 'Let's start calling athletic directors and coaches to see if they're interested.' That investment of time hopefully will pay dividends down the road, not only because you hope the kids are going to stay out of trouble. Social media creates so many distractions off the field for coaches. Maybe we can help them avoid that situation as well…We bring the perspective of 'OK, if you do this, this is what can happen. We don't want to see you in court.”