The late American poet and humorist, Ogden Nash, was known for his witty phrases. One that every hormonal school boy has heard, probably without knowing whom to credit, was, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” To the chagrin of two testosterone and liquor fueled football players from Steubenville, Ohio, it wasn’t the quick way to a girl’s arms but a fast track to juvenile prison.
The two jocks took advantage of a 16 year-old too drunk to fend them off or consent to their sexual advances. Then to add to their degrading behavior, they used smartphones and social media to tout their abuse. It was this that led to their arrest. This weekend in an Ohio courtroom the pair were convicted and immediately sentenced to juvenile prison. Their terms were light in comparison to their crimes and what an adult court would have faced; respectively, minimums of one and two years. The pair can be detained until 21 and must register as sex offenders. In this state the pair would have been charged as adults and subjected to up to 20 years in prison, and 35 years of sex offender probation on release.
Their crime wasn’t about force or statutory rape. It was about non-consensual sex with an incapacitated victim. In Connecticut it is crime to engage in any sexual act with someone who is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated to the extent that such other person is unable to consent to such sexual intercourse. Ohio calls the crime rape. Here we refer to four different degrees of sexual assault. Under our laws there is no distinction between the armed rapist who uses violence or the threat of it, and the conduct in which these two engaged. Our statutes protect people unable to protect themselves and consent to sex: the underaged, the threatened, the physically helpless, the mentally challenged and the mentally incapacitated.
“‘Mentally incapacitated’ means that a person is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling such person’s conduct owing to the influence of a drug or intoxicating substance administered to such person without such person’s consent, or owing to any other act committed upon such person without such person’s consent.” Sec. 53a-65(5).
The statute also defines physically helpless, ” . . . means that a person is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.”
The Ohio victim was seen drinking a mix of alcohol. There were no reports that the two defendants drugged her or even plied her with liquor. It didn’t matter that she was the architect of her own drunken stupor, she was unable to communicate her unwillingness to submit to their actions.
What drew national attention to this Rust Belt town was not the rape itself but the evidence of what were described as “lurid texts,” videos and social media posts. In other words, these two knuckleheads not only took advantage of a girl unable to fend for herself, but magnified their crimes by allowing their assaults to be photographed and videoed, then published through social media. To their undoing, the only real evidence of the assaults was what they memorialized, as the young victim could only recall awakening mostly unclothed after a night of heavy drinking.
There will be no high school prom or graduation for these two. Their case should be the focus of every junior high and high school health class. Scenes from movies like Animal House and Superbad portray drunken sex as part of the rite of passage for young males. Hormonally supercharged young men should be taught to respect a woman’s right to consent, particularly one who is unable to protect herself. Maybe “candy is dandy” but liquor is the quicker way to jail, only. Stick to the candy!