Friday, September 18, 2020
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Sexual assault happens in high school, too

The #MeToo movement has strengthened women of all ages, making them more confident that they’ll be believed when they tell their stories of sexual abuse and assault, and that includes girls in high school.

And while #MeToo was initially about sexual assault in the workplace (and all school districts have policies about that), the movement has morphed into one that involves boorish men, including President Donald Trump in the famous Access Hollywood tape, who push consensual sex too far, as happened with the Aziz Ansari incident.

“While I do not believe that the article published on Babe was the best way to release this story, I do believe that people have lost sight of what the #MeToo movement is about in their shameless tearing apart of this woman who was trying to tell her story,” writes Bella Carmela Levavi in the North Star News, the student newspaper at Niles North High School in Skokie, Illinois.

“The purpose of the #MeToo movement is to lift up women. It is about letting us tell our stories because we have been silenced and not believed for so long.”

Many women are assaulted sexually in America before they turn 18, so one would not expect such maturity—and Ms Levavi’s general call for forgiveness—from students.

But while individual girls and women can move on through forgiveness, that does not address the question of important changes the #MeToo movement has set in motion.

A situation much closer to the high school experience, where signals are bound to be misinterpreted by immature boys and girls, is dating. On dates, immature boys and girls are likely to send mixed signals about sex, and those have no chance of getting read correctly, whether they are verbal or nonverbal.

What is a girl who doesn’t want to go any further supposed to do when she is in a situation, alone with a boy, and he coerces or physically forces her to have sex?

The policies in our schools are generally unknown about this situation, and many girls may not even know that they should report this type of sexual assault that happens on a date. They may believe that just going on a date is a form of consent, especially if the boy convinced her of this along the way.

That’s not true, of course, as affirmative consent tells us. In the other state Voxitatis calls home, Maryland, students have been writing about this as well.

The Black and White is an industrious student newspaper at one of Maryland’s best high schools, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, and Anjali Jha and Maeve Trainor at that school alerted the public to two anonymous students who had been sexually assaulted.

Ms Jha and Ms Trainor tell us, “44 percent of sexual assaults occur before the victim is 18 years old.” Whitman High is no exception. Here’s their video broadcast:

“One day, I was, like, at a party and I ended up alone with someone and … OK … he asked me to give him a blow job,” one anonymous student says on the video. “And I told him I wasn’t comfortable, and I told him no. But he didn’t really take ‘no’ as an answer. After about five minutes, I gave in. And I was, like, OK, like, 10 seconds is, like, fine, and I’ll get it over with.

“So I started, and he didn’t let me finish—until he finished.”

Sexual assault like this is a crime, by the way, and one thing about school policies that the video news segment talks about a little is that school officials are required to report any abuse to the appropriate authorities. In the case of sexual assault, that would be the police.

But that’s still a two-edged sword, even after #MeToo has taken hold: stories like this in the past have led to the women who tell them being shunned, and at the very least, reporting the story to the police will require the victim to relive it as she tells the police what happened.

As a result, many high school girls never report sexual assault. Part of that may be due to not knowing what the policies are, and part of it may be due to inadequate sex education in our schools. In many cases, policies that explicitly support high school girls need to be enacted or information about them disseminated properly to students.

“While we can’t promise everyone will come forward after an assault, making help easier to access may encourage some to tell their story,” Ms Trainor and Ms Jha say. “If we have the power to make even the smallest step in the right direction of justice and overall reduced number of sexual assaults, we absolutely should take that step.

“Remember that no one is asking for it, and no one deserves it.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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