With many college freshmen arriving on campus now, this story should be an important reminder about consequences.
The 2 former University at Albany football players, Julius Harris and Lorenzo Ashbourne, who were recently sentenced to 6 months in jail had plead down a charge of 1st degree rape to 3rd degree rape. The reduced charge has a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison while the original charge has a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. A 3rd man who was also charged with this crime, Charles Guadagno, is expected to make a similar plea agreement soon.
Two former University at Albany football players who raped an 18-year-old freshman classmate in their dorm room in October were sentenced to six months in jail Thursday as the victim's father blasted the punishment as a "travesty."
This father's outrage is understandable since these two men could be out of jail as early as October. Considering what they did and the serious impact their actions have had -- and continue to have -- on their victim, they got off very lightly.
These men may not agree, but unlike their victim, they had the power to avoid these consequences. They had the power to prevent rape. I'm not talking about the "If only I knew where the situation was heading, I would have run," kind of power that magnifies everything negative which came before being raped. These men had real power not to commit rape.
While it is too late for these college men, it isn't too late for others.
Some men will rush to harm others and will refuse be deflected, but many others who think they are doing nothing seriously wrong can be deflected either by being aware that they can hurt others or by being aware that their actions can come back and bite them.
When it comes to rape on college campuses, I've heard some people say that this is the time when young men work through their mistakes in a safe environment which turns rape victims into nothing more than collateral damage. College shouldn't be safe only for young men.
For anyone who doesn't understand what I'm saying, imagine a student who has been given a new car for high school graduation, but who hasn't mastered driving yet. Should that person find college a safe protected environment if he or she frequently confuses the brake and the accelerator, violently striking other students or making other students sprint out of the way each time to keep from being seriously hurt?
I doubt if you shared a college campus with this person that you would want the only official response to be lectures given to you and your fellow students about staying alert for drivers like this one. You wouldn't want to see posters warning you of the danger of using an iPod when that danger is being run over by reckless student drivers. You certainly wouldn't want to see other, more skillful drivers seeing the lack of consequences for bad driving and decide that chasing pedestrians is a fun way to kill some time.
Yet this is the type of atmosphere many college women face -- only worse. Nobody accuses the pedestrian struck by a car of wanting it because he likes riding in cars or because he was looking for a ride a few minutes before being struck.
We recognize that there is a clear difference between riding in the car and being turned into a hood ornament. We recognize that the driver's excuse that there was a misunderstanding is nonsense.
To prevent rape on college campuses and elsewhere, we need there to be this level of mental clarity when it comes to telling the difference between sex and sex crimes.