My daughter was bothered by a recent news story and she decided to share it with me. The case involves a now infamous rape case in Lawrence, Kansas. Albert N. Wilson, now 23 years old, was found guilty of rape by fear and sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by a lifetime of post-release supervision and must register as a sex offender according to news reports.
The case is receiving national attention for the State’s lack of evidence in convicting a former young college student with no criminal record. All it seems, the State relied upon was the mere say so of the alleged victim. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the #MeToo movement or the mantra that women should be believed. The details of the case can be read at the above link or here at freealbertwilson.com, a site which is trying to garner national attention in order to have his sentence drastically reduced or thrown out altogether. Remember the good ole days when judges thought that a young man who was going to college and accused of rape while intoxicated should be looked upon with mercy? Remember when a judge thought that giving a student a harsh prison sentence would be a severe impact on him? I remember too, but that’s not the case in this situation.
Let me state the obvious before continuing; rape, sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances are all wrong on every level. I have a daughter, wife and mother. Unwanted advances and forced sexual contact should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and justice should prevail in every case.
My problem here is not only the application of the law and its apparent lack of consistency, but the social implications that young men face and how they should navigate in this country. While I was discussing the situation with my daughter, I informed her that I had to have a conversation with her brother when he was in the upper levels of high school. As a police officer at the time, I was well aware of the law, and warned my son that as a 17-year-old, he had to be careful about the ages of the young ladies he would interact with. He must be very careful and take whatever steps necessary in order to obtain her exact age or he could face similar consequences. During my career, I knew of many 18-year-old boys who got into jams over 15-year-old girls. During the conversation, my daughter told me about a friend of hers who is currently attending college in New Hampshire, which is not exactly the most diverse place in America. She informed me that his mother told him, a young black male, that he must be careful of who and which females he interacts with. He must be cognizant of what consent actually means, intoxication levels, (hopefully there are none, especially when sex is involved) and, when no means no. To make matters worse, one needs to look to the current debacle in Virginia with Lt. Governor Fairfax to get some sense of what could happen years later. Congratulations must be given to this young man’s mother for taking the initiative and telling her son of the possibilities concerning opposite sex interactions.
My problem is that there seems to be a lack of positive male role models to take these young men under their wings and educate them about life in America, especially as a young black man. Let me be clear, I do not know if Wilson had such guidance from a seasoned adult male. I do not know if my daughter’s friend had/has a positive male role model who also schooled him before he went off to further his education in a strange place. I do know that one night when my son was senior in high school, he came home upset and told me that he and his friends had just had an interaction with the police. They were at a house party and as it was ending, the police showed up and ordered everyone to leave. According to him, they weren’t warm and fuzzy in their approach and suggestion that everyone take off immediately. For whatever reason, the police asked for my son’s and his friend’s IDs. They complied (a good idea) and handed them over. Once they saw my son’s name, which is the same as mine, they let them all go. My son was upset that they were asked to present IDs in the first place. I went outside and had “the talk” with my son and his 3 friends. The next day my son told me that they were all thankful that I told them how to conduct themselves and interact with police. He informed me that they all said that no one had ever told them these things before. And that is the point of this post.
I’m calling for all positive male role models to be just that, positive. If you know of young men who do not have someone to school them in life, then step up and be that man. Find out the consensual laws in your state and inform the young men on how to act while they are in their upper high school years or before they go off to college. I had another similar talk with my son before he joined the Air Force. We need our men to be men, to teach them to drive, shave, balance a check book, navigate the internet, open businesses, and so on and so on. Tell them how to conduct themselves when stopped by the police. We can’t continue to have situations like Wilson’s in which young men lose their lives through excessive prison sentences or interactions with the police that turn deadly, because our young men don’t know how to conduct themselves.