Editorial: Focus blurry in Niles 5 casePublished 9:53pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012
They’re just kids.
Boys will be boys.
It’s just high school shenanigans.
It takes two to tango.
Everybody’s doing it.
Those are some of the excuses made in more than 60 letters sent to the Berrien County Trial Court in defense of the five Niles teenagers involved in the sex video extortion case.
Similar arguments have been made on the Daily Star’s Facebook page. On the other side of the debate, some commenters have ripped the young men, labeling them rapists and wishing them harm in prison.
We find these polar opposite reactions to both be very extreme.
Clearly, taping a teenage girl having sex without her knowledge and using it to blackmail her into sex acts is not just “high school shenanigans.”
It’s closer to what Judge Scott Schofield labeled as a “brutal and heartless rape.”
Many of the community members making excuses for the young men didn’t sit through the hours of heart-wrenching testimony given by the victims. Maybe they didn’t hear about her suicidal thoughts after the assault.
The “everybody’s doing it” argument also rings hollow when you look at a recent study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. According to the survey, 20 percent of teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude photos or videos. A high number? Yes. But hardly everyone.
And the number of youth using sexts for extortion has to be even lower.
On the other hand, let’s not be too quick to villainize them either.
Most of these young men were strong students, gifted athletes and respected by their peers and the community. One mistake doesn’t define them.
Still Judge Scott Schofield was right in his comments at Tuesday’s sentencing of Trey Nichols when he said he was “disappointed” by the lack of focus on the victim by the community and media.
So much has been made of the fate of these five young men that it’s easy to forget there are several young women trying to heal and learn to trust again.
The whole situation is a sad commentary on the teenage community and should serve as both a wakeup call and a call to action to adults to step up as leaders and role models.
This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.