EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 23, 2013

Column: Serena Williams' comments deserve further review

There is a difference between blaming the victim and exhorting someone to use some common sense to avoid becoming a victim.

But it seems hardly anyone in our ultra-sensitive, ultra-politically correct world is able or willing to accept that difference.

Hence the rain of abuse from the Twitterverse and other social media on tennis star Serena Williams for questioning the judgment of a 16-year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio, who got roaring drunk at a party last August and ended up being raped by two high-school football players. The two boys, 16 at the time of the crime, were convicted in March in juvenile court of rape of a minor.

In a brief segment of a lengthy interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Williams called the perpetrators “stupid,” but also said, “I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people … She shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

Williams has since issue the obligatory craven apology. And it is worth mentioning at the start that she could have used a bit of common sense herself. She, like the rest of us, doesn’t know what the victim’s parents taught her, or tried to teach her. She doesn’t know if this young girl was drunk for the first time or if this was a regular event.

And, as is often the case, star athletes should probably stick to being star athletes. They should not expect to be experts on social issues.

That said, those who piled on immediately after the interview was published ought to do some apologizing too. The point Williams was trying to make was that when we put ourselves in dangerous, volatile situations and cloud our minds with drink or drugs, bad things are likely to happen. That message ought to be embraced, not denounced.

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