By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) It’s easy to sell kids short and take the “get off my lawn” approach to every generation that follows our own. I mean, they haven’t been around the block, fought the good fight or graduated from the School of Hard Knocks with a Bachelor’s in Kicking Ass and a Minor in Cliches. What do they really know about the real world, right?
It’s so easy to discredit their opinions on real-world issues. Except it shouldn’t be. Especially when a real world issue is sexual assault. There are things many kids know.
On Wednesday, some DePaul University students held a protest over what they feel are some severe shortcoming by their school’s own athletic department when it comes to handling cases of sexual violence. The protesting students were careful to make no mention of any specific instance, and there have been no criminal charges levied involving anyone affiliated with DePaul sports as far as I know, but it doesn’t take a criminal justice major to not help but look at a fishy dismissal of a star athlete a few months ago.
The protest was small and brief, a prequel to Thursday’s Take Back the Night rally. After about 20 minutes, campus public safety officers removed the two banners that were hung in a class building on the Lincoln Park campus. One read “DPU Athletics We Know What You Did #RapeCulture #YouCantHide!” and the other read “Things That Cause Rape” with boxes labeled “Flirting,” “my outfit,” and “Drunk” empty — while the “Rapist” box was checked.
“DePaul strictly prohibits sexual and relationship violence; it takes seriously allegations of all such violence,” DePaul spokesperson Carol Hughes said, according to the school’s student newspaper, The DePaulia. “All students who violate the university’s Code of Student Responsibility are subject to DePaul’s Student Judicial Process and the sanctions of that process. Moreover, DePaul provides a variety of support and resources for survivors.”
Some students don’t feel that support for victims, as evidenced in some lack of response by the school to some athletic department-related incident, has been sufficient.
I don’t know the specifics of what has these kids fed up — and while legally adults, they are very much kids. But they know something. They know a lot of things actually.
They know that sexual assault is wrong and that defending rapists and predators is a really bad look. I realized that understanding wasn’t just a grown-up thing last year when I discussed the Steubenville rape case with my students, and not a one of them could bring themselves to defend the accused. And I don’t have some special group of eggs. They’re great kids, but they still manage to try to mansplain and whitesplain other issues from time to time because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to respond with oftentimes. Most of the time, though, they’re street-smarter than a lot of grown-ups give them credit for.
They know that when it comes to sports and women, the latter is marginalized and unfairly discredited a lot. The latter is told how to look and act by manly sports men when they aren’t furrowing their manly brows and rolling their manly eyes at the notion of a dame having a sports thought.
The DePaul protesters also know that we live in a rapey culture, particularly in the college environment. Immediately following their protest they garnered support on social media and elsewhere, but because it’s the Internet, they also brought out the hilarious guys who like to make rape jokes, with this flavor of idiot being particular to comparing rape to DePaul’s poor showing in basketball in recent years. That train is never late.
Those Blue Demons know that athletes accused of sexual assault get special treatment all too often. Josh Lueke would be a case in point. The coaching staff in Steubenville exemplified it. The once-repeated allowance of Dave Meggett to walk the streets.
The kids at DePaul know that sometimes grown-ups they put their trust into don’t do the grown-up thing when it comes to cases of sexual assault, especially when sports are involved. Sometimes they even abuse that trust.
And sometimes members of the school and even the student body defend those adults and sometimes defend the predators. It was refreshing on Wednesday to read about the DePaul protest, which was so much the opposite of the awfulness we saw by so many Penn State students after the firing of a football coach for his protection of another football coach/raper of kids.
And sometimes people want to rebuild statues of those adults who betrayed the trust of kids. One depicting a particular trust abuser reading the Aeneid. And I bet a lot of college kids know that the Aeneid contains some rape scenes, because of course.
On Wednesday, some kids decided to show that they know sports aren’t more important than rape. Most of the adults they have trusted to handle this specific grown-up situation have yet to apparently do much of anything about it.
The kids know that being blatantly mum regarding a case of sexual assault and one of the school’s athletes looks poorly clandestine, if not complacent. The school will probably cite something about privacy laws, but those aren’t so much a “our hands are tied” thing as one of convenience.
Some kids have shown that it’s decidedly inconvenient for them, though. And it will likely take more kids like the ones at DePaul looking out for other kids because a lot of bad adults want to look out for other bad adults instead.
But, hey, what do they know, right?
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.