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To shut up Serena and Sharapova, we must change

June 24, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
I reluctantly wade into this because it’s my job, but I was happy to sit on the sidelines since last August, whiling away the time and marveling at how awful a community can be.

I’ve tried to start this column about six times during the past 10 weeks since I’ve been back in the newsroom, only to file the fits and starts away, hoping someday to have a little clearer thought.

I don’t know how clear the thoughts have become, but it’s time to say something. After all The Boss (at work) made some crack about having missed my “biting social commentary” the other day, whatever the hell that means.

The “this” of which I speak is categorically called the “Big Red Rape Case” or the “Steubenville Rape Case.”

And the final straw that gets me off the sidelines is, of all things, the person of Maria Sharapova. While she and Serena Williams are having a high-school girl catfight with verbal sparring, Sharapova has chosen to weigh in with her view on Williams’ insensitive remarks about the victim in the case. All day Saturday, the Twitter computer behind my head in the newsroom was blipping and bleeping about 10 times a minute while the Twittersphere weighed in with its retweets and nasty comments, all of them featuring the word “Steubenville.” Indeed, the tennis catfight made the “Today” show on Monday, leading off, of course, with the words “Steubenville rape case.”

In the past, when Steubenville has been under harsh national spotlights, I’ve circled the wagons and gone on defense.

I won’t this time. It accomplishes nothing, changes nothing.

And therein lies what made me wait to write this.

I love the town where I grew up. The experience I had in the West End of this city in the 1960s and 1970s was literally “Leave It to Beaver.” It is possible to have grown up in such a place in Steubenville, despite the national portrayal of the “gritty steel town” and now the place portrayed as where every young man is a rapist and we’re all a bunch of idiots with green teeth looking for a chance to prove our stupidity to the world.

While I am sick of having to go to the mirror and check to see if my teeth have indeed turned green, or having to work a quick crossword puzzle to make sure my IQ hasn’t fallen too much from having chosen to make my living in my hometown, I won’t circle the wagons, either.

The rape happened. That is it. It’s an ugly word. And all the circumstances surrounding it are awful for all involved and it’s become a cesspool whose stink slops us all, whether or not we directly waded through its muck.

I won’t circle the wagons. It’s nearly a year since the booze-fueled teen party blew the lid off the social ills of teen drinking and sexual conduct and their misguided, unguided, inexperienced way of leading their lives on the social media. That is not a Steubenville-only problem.

I won’t circle the wagons because in that year, I cannot for the life of me figure what Steubenville has done to turn this horrid negative situation into a positive to help other girls and boys in the future. Where is the leadership that could make this community the leader of a national discussion about social networks, kids and conduct in the wired wireless world in which we now live? We’ve let others, including a couple of cat-fighting tennis players, take command of that situation while we seem to do nothing more than get ready for another season of football up and down the valley, as if nothing happened except the world is beating the crap out of us.

Business as usual. Circle the wagons.

We’re not the only place where this awful stuff is happening. It happened in Annapolis, apparently, but nobody is carrying on about the Midshipmen and their version of the Steubenville case. Apparently, unlike Steubenville, nobody would consider the Navy ripe for kicking in its green teeth.

It’s happened in California and elsewhere, and yet, Steubenville is what the world is gang-tackling. It is what it is, and it’s not going to go away, no matter how much we wish it would. We are where we are. This community doesn’t need to circle the wagons. We need to get up off the mat and take charge.

But that would require someone in town actually having an idea and being able to follow through without fear of bullying by people who only think in terms of their school’s colors. It’s not about Big Red or Indian Creek or Central or any other school. It isn’t about football. It’s about kids. It’s about parenting in today’s world, where kids never leave the world of other kids because they’re plugged into that even while they’re in the room with their parents and families.

Anybody in this town want to get up off the mat and talk about that? Because I ran out of wagons a long time ago.


Article Comments



Jun-28-13 8:45 AM

Kudos to the author, what a great article, finally!!

The rape happened, nothing can change that but what we can do is use what happened to educate other area teens on the dangers of social media, underage drinking, and sexual assault. The teens who posted those tweets could turn this into a positive by talking to other area teens and explaining what they've went through these past months because of a split second decision made while intoxicated to post something online. These teens are now known internationally and not in a good way. I'm sure they deeply regret posting what they did . Adults can warn teens until they're blue in the face but coming from a peer the warnings may have a much bigger impact. I'm not trying to excuse what they did, it was wrong, I'm sure they now know this.


Jun-24-13 9:30 PM

What a weak(and phony) attempt to address some important and specific issues: Did the coach know that an alleged rape took place and did not contact the authorities ; Did the coach discuss the incident with the principal and/ or the superintendent; Did school board members know of the incident; Why was the coach given an extra high-paying limited responsibility job with almost no time oversight or supervision; Would a math teacher be allowed to remain teaching when under investigation for criminal actions like the coach continues in two jobs; Would the writer allow his children to have this coach as a role model and protector Talk about circling the wagons- you continue to obfuscate and not ask the right questions and demand answers from those who must be held accountable. Go back to sleep


Jun-24-13 8:36 PM

"That is not a Steubenville-only problem."

Indeed. The situation nationwide is much more horrible than anyone can imagine. In Norwood,CO, we have the spectre of a 13 year old boy on the HS wrestling team being sodomized with sticks and pencils by varsity wrestlers. The kid was the principal's son. When the principal spoke to the coach about the incident, the coach said, "This happens at least 1,000 times daily". The principal his family were harassed out of town. The perps were never convicted and the coach retained his job. According to Bloomberg News, "More than 40 high school boys were sodomized with foreign objects by their teammates in over a dozen alleged incidents reported in the past year” — a sharp rise from a decade ago. Why aren't the clowns in the Guy Fawkes masks taking a moral stance on these perverts?


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