Victim blaming around sexual assault must stop
Public education is meant to give students an all-encompassing education and prepare them for the rest of their lives but what will they have missed? What topic do we lack an understanding of to the point where it has become a culture? What valuable life lesson is not prioritized? Sexual assault: those scary words we all fear yet are so uneducated about. Not only is sexual assault not taught in school, it is not prioritized in our culture.
It is the ex-girlfriend. Post-breakup drama and emotions are running high and the ex-boyfriend posts indecent photos of her online. Comments start flowing: “savage bro”, “you got her man”, “ruin her life dude.” As time passes, the situation dies down and everyone moves on to the next disaster. Except for her. Because now, for the rest of her life she will be defined by a highschool mistake. For the rest of her life, she will walk around ashamed of her body. No one says anything because “she put herself in that situation by taking the photos.”
It is the freshman football player. Awkward and nervous, he immerses himself into the culture of a locker room. The yelling and shoving and profanity. The locker room is a varsity player’s palace and whatever happens to a freshman in that locker room is taken as “part of the game” or “locker room play.” The uncomfort with their body and embarrassment are a process of their coming of age as football players. Wrong. There is nothing normal or okay about embarrassing young boys about their bodies. It is just as wrong as sexually harassing or assaulting girls.
It is the girl under the influence. Steubenville Ohio was home to an incident in which a 16-year-old girl was raped by multiple student athletes while unconscious at a high school party. According to the New York Times, “the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight.” The boys not only raped her, but videos and images of them committing the acts were uploaded to social media.
North Star Lead Health Education Supervisor Christy Leonard said these actions are justified by society often by saying “drinking alcohol, using drugs put you at a higher risk.”
As time goes on, the ex-girlfriend, the freshman football player and the drunk girl come to terms with what happened to them.
People move on, life resumes. But every time the girl goes to a party, she goes back to that night. And every time the ex-girlfriend goes online, her heart skips a beat in fear of seeing her photos again or reading another comment.
And every time that football player walks into a locker room, he is reminded that he does not matter in comparison to a varsity player.
Cat calling and the way girls are referred to leads to a society where degradation is normal and acceptable and that is where the problem starts. No one even bats an eye because girls are taught to be flattered by catcalling. Girls are even taught to think of these derogatory terms as compliments. According to Student Resource Officer, Jesse Allen, “It depends on the verbage.”
Changing rape culture starts with making it a priority. And that happens through education. Students take a whole semester of health class in order to graduate and according to health teacher Darren Johnson, an outside hired company (Northstar) comes in and “they had some videos on people that had various life situations where they had been victims.”
That’s all. We spend weeks learning about the rhetorical triangle but the topic of sexual assault gets a few videos. And the consequences of sexual assault are another brief talking point during Northstars presentation: “we don’t get into too many details, we tell them of course they can be arrested, that they could become registered sex offenders, they could spend many many years in prison…but we don’t get into too many specifics.” Making sexual violence a priority means educating people about what it is and why it is wrong.
High school is doing us an injustice. While learning about history and the scientific method is important, people need to know more about people.