The verdict is in, they are guilty. Former Vanderbilt University football players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were found guilty in the rape of an unconscious, fellow female student in a campus dorm on June 23, 2013. Sentencing will be coming soon, but there is still more guilt to go around. This rape did not need to happen. Of course it shouldn’t have happened, but it might not have happened had some other male students from Vanderbilt recognized this young woman’s humanity enough to report what they saw, what they heard, what they knew. But they didn’t and now lives are irreparably destroyed.
“Failure to report.” That is the very least of what the witnesses to the rape of female Vanderbilt University neuroscience student are guilty of. It sounds very official and it would be, if colleges and universities added it to their rules and regulations along with applicable penalties and punishments. Right now “reporting” is just encouraged. Encouraged how? You would like to think that basic civility, concern for your fellow human being, would be enough to encourage witnesses to speak up, but it often isn’t. The witnesses of the assault at Vanderbilt had concern, but only for half the population, mankind. The young woman, their schoolmate, was disregarded, abandoned, and ultimately condemned. They didn’t know her, but neither did most of them know her abusers. However, watching her motionless body be carried into a dorm, witnessing her naked body be photographed, listening to her unconscious body be violated over and over, did not compel any of them to step forward on her behalf.
As reported on news.yahoo.com: “Dillon van der Wal, who just completed football season playing tight end at Vanderbilt, testified that he didn’t tell anyone despite knowing the woman socially and seeing her unconscious in the hallway, with red hand marks on her buttocks.
‘You thought well of her, you cared for her welfare,” defense attorney Fletcher Long said. “When you encountered her in the condition you found her with the marks you testified to, you called the police?’
‘I did not,’ van der Wal, replied.”
Are you stunned? I wish I was, but this case is not an anomaly. These non-reporting witnesses are extremely common. They are regular young people, just like the ones we see everyday at schools and events across the country. Every parent wants to believe that they have raised their kid to do the right thing, but when out on their own, when faced with the choice between standing up for a victim or standing back and letting violence pass, many of them are choosing the latter. Sometimes there is real fear at play, but other times it’s just discomfort;
As reported on www.jrn.com “Vanderbilt football player Mack Prioleau said he was asleep when the other players came into the room with the alleged victim, but woke up when the lights came on. Prioleau said he tried to go back to asleep while the alleged rape was occurring and put it out of his mind.”
As reported on news.yahoo.com “Cameras showed a crowd gathered around as Vandenburg pulled up to the dorm in a vehicle with his unconscious date. At least five students later became aware of the unconscious woman in obvious distress, but did nothing to report it. Rumors quickly spread around campus, and still no one apparently reported it.”
or sadly, team loyalty;
As reported on www.wsmv.com “Deandre Woods, a sophomore and current Vanderbilt football player said he went to the side door of the building to try to get in, which is when he saw fellow football players Chris Boyd and Dillon Van Der Wal, along with a male tennis player. He said he was with this group of men when he saw an unclothed woman who was ‘looking unconscious’ in the hallway outside Room 213. According to Woods, he and Boyd moved the woman from the hallway to Vandenburg’s room. He said Vandenburg was there but they did not have any conversations.”
“Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie, one of the four players charged with raping an unconscious coed in a dorm room in June 2013, took the stand to testify for the prosecution in the trial of Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey. ‘It’s hard to tell on your brother when something like that happens, yes I lied,’ he said.”
These young men were barely conflicted about their decision to enable the rape of this young woman. Personally I consider all of the witnesses as accessories to rape, every last one of them. They put the victim in the literal arms of her rapists. We have laws on the books to hold people accountable as accessories to murder for just driving a car or concealing evidence. How is that different from what these “witnesses” did?
Rape is the least reported of all violent crimes often because victims are fearful of being faced with a he said/she said conundrum. But the Vanderbilt case had witnesses, video, and even photographs. Yet those Vanderbilt witnesses are free from prosecution and free from any tangible burden of conscience. Sure after the trial all of these young men may look back at their inaction and reconsider their choices, but looking back is a luxury that offers the victim, their victim, absolutely no solace.
But let’s be honest, our kids don’t just go off to college and all of a sudden develop these behaviors. The seeds are within them before they even get to the campus. Our children are victims and perpetrators and witnesses in high school and elementary school, throughout their entre childhood.
As reported on www.nsopw.gov:
- Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. 1
- Teens 16 to 19 years of age were 3 ½ times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.6
- Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. 7
We parents have to wake up and smell the inhumanity. We need to take action now to change the course of the future, to alter these statistics. We can. Teaching humanity is something we can do everyday. We can reinforce instincts to care for others, and instill in our children a sense of duty to protect and serve both man and woman kind.
1. Be The Example. If you see something say something. Call 911. Call 311. Tell a supervisor. Call a parent. Call the school. Let your children see you take action. Provide an example for what they themselves can do.
2. ‘Failure To Report’ Rules. Lobby your school for clearly defined rules and course of action for reporting not just definitive violations but concerns about potential/future violations. Many of these acts of violence are pre-planned. Kids hear things. They know things. We need an obvious pathway for them to share what they know either openly or anonymously.
3. Amnesty. Lobby your school to have an amnesty clause for witnesses who report violations. We don’t want children to let concerns about their own misbehavior to prevent them from reporting more serious issues.
4. Define Sexual Abuse, Assault and Rape. The Vanderbilt rapists were guilty of penetration with fingers and water bottles, not just their sexual organs. They also were guilty of slapping buttocks and taking pictures. Many perpetrators and victims alike do not fully understand what is rape or criminal sexual abuse. Break it down for your children. Masticate the complexities of your states’ laws in an age appropriate manor. Arm your children with knowledge and, quite frankly, a healthy dose of fear.
5. Take The ‘Victim’ Out Of Victimization. Many young people who have been sexually victimized don’t report the abuse because they don’t want to be seen as a “victim”. Being a victimized does not mean that you are marked, or weak, or responsible. It is never your fault that you fit the criteria of a perpetrator. We need to reinforce that in our homes when we see reports of abuse on the news. Openly discuss the bravery of the abused and champion their strength, don’t just mourn their loss of innocence. Let your children envision people who have been victimized as survival hero’s not sad victims.
6. Hold Others Accountable. Make sure the other adults in your childs’ life are echoing your teachings. Don’t let sexist language slide. Hold teachers, coaches and group leaders accountable for their words. Keep them from planting seeds of inhumanity in your children. Stand up for the moral health of your child.
7. Everything Is a Choice. Remind your children that inaction is as much a choice as action. Passivity does not absolve one of responsibility. In some cases doing nothing makes you even more morally culpable if not legally.
If you found this post informative please check out Telling Kids The Truth About Standing Up For Yourself, 3/5ths Justice-Walking While Black, 8 Events That Colored Black History Month Necessary, Aerie Real Girls Campaign Has Real Benefits For Teens, and The Vanderbilt Verdict Proves How Much Farther We Have To Go.