I was at the last Bisons game of the season. There was a girl sitting behind me with blue hair and braces, enjoying the chatter of the game and her family.
On the street where I live there are girls, too. One is just discovering the challenges of college, after graduating high school as a top scholar-athlete. Another young woman, a senior in high school, is involved in her classes and community service. A third is about the same age as the girl at the Bisons game, full of joy and ready to begin the school year.
What do we tell these girls? Be afraid. Tone down your confidence. Dampen your sense of discovery. Even when you say no or cannot consent to sex, it can be forced on you. Never trust that the blindfold of justice is blind to wealth, power or well, just being a guy.
Because that is exactly what justice is telling the young women of Niagara County. And so is the news reporting.
Not one, but two adult men, pleaded guilty to rape charges; both were given probation. One was allowed to continue in school with his victim until classmates walked out in protest and parents confronted the Niagara Wheatfield School Board. The other was 16 or 17 at the time of the crimes, abuse so outrageous, the judge changed her original sentencing.
Neither guy convicted of rape will suffer the life-changing and everlasting effects of being sexually abused. In fact, if they just obey the rules the judge set for a year or two, no one will ever know that they are convicted rapists.
The girl with the blue hair, the athlete in college, the high school senior all obey the rules. They are confident, brilliant young women full of joy, hope and dignity.
So, what do we tell them?