A lot has happened this past week in my hometown.
Even though I moved to Athens three weeks ago, a part of my heart is still in Mason, Ohio. I spent my whole life growing up there, experiencing everything from far-too-early morning announcements, to stressing out over AP exams, to cheering on the Comets in the Black Hole on a crisp Friday night until my voice was hoarse. For the longest time, I assumed everyone was experiencing the same thing I was at Mason High School. I was very, very wrong.
When I heard a sophomore–a friend of my sister’s, even–took his own life, I felt a heaviness that I haven’t been able to shake. Depression is a real disease that is sometimes impossible to detect and it makes me so sad that he felt so alone that he thought death was his only option. It’s been said time and time again: we need to love each other and treat each other with respect. Every person should feel valued and important.
Then, just as I was coming to grips with this extremely heartbreaking news, I saw another upsetting story regarding a Mason graduate in my class. Bryson White, a football player who was known for making nasty and sexually suggestive comments to girls I knew, was recently charged in Michigan with accused robbery and and home invasion. If that’s not bad enough, his past began to be dredged up and some terrible things were discovered: four sexual assault charges, including gang raping a female with a gun to her head with two other members of the football team. This happened behind a Catholic church in the city I call home.
It makes me sick that Bryson White not only got away with raping and sexually assaulting girls in high school without consequences, but was able to play football at the collegiate level. I’m extremely angry that he continued this disrespectful and illegal pattern in college, but glad he will finally learn the lesson that it is never okay to violate a woman in any way and he can’t depend on his athletic skills to protect him. He is not a football player who made a few mistakes. He’s a rapist who happens to be good at football. There is no excuse for that sort of behavior.
So Mason, I am sorry. I am sorry to all of you who lost a classmate and a friend. I am sorry to all the women who have been violated by Bryson or anyone else, physically or verbally. I am sorry that there is so much pain in my hometown and I cannot be there to grieve with you.
I’m not saying I have the solutions, Mason. I’m just saying that I am sorry and my heart goes out to you this week and always.
(I would like to thank all the girls who did the post-it note encouragements this week to lift the spirits of Mason students. This is what love is. Keep spreading it, MHS.)