Reading Time: 3 minutes

New charges possible in Steubenville case

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

facebook twitter instagram

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (right) and Prosecutor Brian Deckert (left) and Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter (center), answer questions about the successful prosecution of two juveniles in a rape case during a news conference at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville, Ohio, March 17, 2013 (Credit: AP/Steubenville Herald-Star/Michael D. McElwain)

Last August, a 16-year-old girl was raped by two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio.  The boys were convicted Sunday and sentenced to youth prison. Now Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced that he will convene a grand jury next month to consider charges against those who were at the party but did not try to stop the crime.

Images of the victim and text messages about her were shared by the boys during and after the attack.  Three other boys saw the attack, but recorded it on their cell phones rather than trying to stop it.  They were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.  Other students apparently also recorded the attack on their phones and gossiped about it online.  The family’s attorney said it was upsetting that no one who saw the victim could be “courageous and man enough to stand up and help.”

In researching today’s essay, I was surprised to learn that the law does not require us to report a crime unless a special relationship such as parent and child exists.  We have a moral responsibility, but not a legal liability.  (A woman in Florida is promoting a law that would make witnesses to a crime legally responsible if they do not report it, but so far no such statute exists.)  Teachers and coaches, however, are legally required to report any type of child abuse, a fact that may be relevant to the Steubenville investigation.

Here’s my question: as our culture continues its moral decline, what is our obligation in God’s eyes?  If you knew a friend was driving in the wrong direction, you would do what you could to alert him.  What does God hold us responsible for doing about the moral direction of our nation?  What influence has he entrusted to you for this purpose?

The victim’s mother is using her influence for good.  After the trial, she made this recorded statement to the boys who attacked her daughter: “Human compassion . . . is a God-given gift instilled in all of us.  You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code.  Your decisions that night affected countless lives, including those most dear to you.  You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.  This does not define who my daughter is.  She will persevere, grow, and move on.  I have pity for you both.  I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions, and pray hard for his forgiveness.”

The Lord made Ezekiel “a watchman for the house of Israel” and charged him to warn his nation: “Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:7, 11).  How has he made you his “watchman” today?