Do you know that when I first watched the Steubenville video, one of the first things that I noticed was the guy in the background saying, "Dude, shut up, I have a 14-year old sister." And later, "What if that was your daughter?" The fact of the matter is that the dudes I know, and frankly, most dudes in the world are good guys. They support ending sexual violence. Guy friends and friends of friends post about my blog, they tag me in FB links, they tell people about my upcoming book. The real truth is that we are inundated with good guys. The other real truth is that no matter what that guy said about his sister, he was at a party where a girl was being carried around unconscious and he didn't do anything.
I have this 17yo boy beta reader named Ricardo. Ricardo plays soccer, he also plays the violin, performs in school musicals, is applying to Ivy League schools for college, and teaches Sunday school with me every week. Even when he's super tired because he was out until 2am on Saturday night, he shows up for Sunday school. Ricardo is a good guy. He's a great guy. But even knowing this, knowing him, seeing him interact as a rockstar example to 5th graders every week, I did wonder what Ricardo would do when faced with a situation like that in Steubenville. What would he do if he were a bystander at that party? Would he come forward and stop it? Would he call the police? I would like to hope that he would. The reality of the situation is that it's sometimes damn difficult to step forward and be "the other" or the one guy saying, "hey, this isn't okay." It's hard for us as adults, for teens where a good chunk of every day is spent worrying about fitting in, I imagine it's close to impossible.
Part of the reason that I wrote Fault Line from Ben's perspective was that I wanted a young adult book about rape where dudes aren't vilified. I wrote that book for Ricardo and everyone who knows someone like Ricardo (which is frankly all of us). I want guys to read that book and connect with Ben, the good guy. Ben makes mistakes, but he's a nice guy. There are way more guys in the world like Ben than there are perpetrators. We know this. And I also want people to read that book and wonder what Ben could have done differently as a good guy. Because there's room for improvement in all of us.
Almost all of what Knight Sec has uncovered about the Steubenville case has been a result of people coming forward and giving it to them. The only thing that they hacked was one guy's email account. The controversial video was sent to them, not stolen by them. So basically, this group of anonymous people created a community where people could go and do something. Imagine if you're one guy faced with THAT coach and THAT football-loving town. Even if you're the most upstanding guy with a heck of a lot of integrity, being one voice of dissent probably feels like an exercise in futility. So my guess is that the community of "Anonymous" ended up being a God send to some people because it represented a way of coming forward to people that could do something to stop the "Rape Crew."
So here's what I said to Ricardo yesterday, "I will be your 'no questions asked' person. If you text me because you're in a dodgy situation or someone you know is in a dodgy situation, I will come and try to help you, no questions asked. I know that it isn't always easy to go to parents. So call me or text me and I will do what I can to help." I'm not trying to replace his parents or teachers or professionals, I'm trying to replace the option of inaction. I don't know if this is the right thing to do or not, but I know given the choice between him doing nothing or him texting me to ask me for help, I'll take the latter. He may never use that number, but he has it.
This, of course, was motivated by Steubenville, but I think it can apply to lots of stuff. I wonder how many fewer teens would drive drunk if they had a "no questions asked" person. I wonder how many possible out-of-hand parties where people and property were destroyed could have been prevented if there was a "no questions asked" person on the end of a phone. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you sign on to be an enabler who becomes a drinking teen's "designated driver", I'm suggesting you sign on to be a better option than doing nothing. Because if we don't face the very real situations that teens come up against every day, things like Steubenville will keep happening.
My call to action: Be a "no questions asked" person to someone you are close with. Be a person who isn't there to judge but to help. This goes beyond being a first responder to rape who knows enough to say "I'm sorry" or "I believe you" or "I'll try to help you". This is being a person to someone before things happen or before they get so out of hand that lives are ruined.
Now is the opportunity to let people in your life know that they aren't alone and to acknowledge that for all that parents are, it is frankly sometimes difficult to go to them. Especially as teenagers. My best friend Rebecca and I have this deal with our kids that if there is anything that they feel like they can't talk to us about, they go to the other one and that person will be a safe person to talk to. I trust Rebecca. I trust her guidance and advice to my kids. And frankly, I know that my kids going to Rebecca is a heck of a lot better than them either doing nothing about a troubling situation or them trying to figure it out on their own.