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It’s Time . . .

Emma Sieben, Editor-in-chief

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In Newfoundland, outrage was ignited when Stephenville High School allowed a male student, who was accused by at least three girls of sexual assault and subsequently suspended, to briefly return to class to write his mid-term exams. How is it that the school allowed an offender to return, when it surely meant that the young girls he victimized would have to re-face their traumatic experiences?

Sexual harassment and assault are extremely prevalent among youth; according to Stats Can., 82% of reported sexual assault cases are women under the age of 18. In light of the recent Times Up and #MeToo movements, this is a problem that MUST be addressed, for the sake of the victims, and society in general. Even though we’ve been lectured about consent in Sex Ed time and time again, this is still a commonplace event. Therefore, we have to evaluate the effectiveness of the ways we, societally, are currently choosing to educate people about sexual assault itself.

Girls are taught to always have an “escape plan,” to stay with friends, to never walk alone in the dark, to never let anyone else touch your drink, etc. We hear these lectures so often, they have  become common knowledge.

What about the other side, though?

Instead of teaching girls to be afraid to walk home by themselves, why aren’t we teaching boys that no means no? Why are we teaching fear instead of respect among all people? Why do we make it so hard for girls to speak their truths?

Only 12% of sexual assaults that have been reported to the police result in criminal convictions. Because there are generally no witnesses for sexual assault cases, and no evidence if “rape kits” aren’t done immediately following the attack, it is very hard for assaulters to be charged. The women who have been victimized sometimes don’t even report their incidents, because they often have to tell their traumatic stories over and over again in court, which can be extremely demoralizing.

Why is the system so broken? So patriarchal? So focussed on exhausting people’s hope, rather than protecting them? What can we do to change it?

For a start, high schools should impose more educational resources regarding sexual assault. This would include items such as the importance of consent and recognizing what it actually means (no, not through the tea metaphor), alcohol and substance awareness, and self-defense. As well, teachers, counsellors, and education assistants should undergo training that will equip them with the skills required to aid students who have undergone traumatic events: a sort of “mental health first aid,” if you will.

On a larger scale, counsellors should be readily available to provide emotional support to clients who have to give testimony at trials. Furthermore, victims of sexual assault should be able to give their evidence anonymously, with only the judge aware of their identity.

Until we learn to be proactive instead of reactive, we will continue in the endless cycle of victimization. It’s time for change.

 

Sources:

https://www.canadianwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Facts-About-Sexual-Assault-and-Harassment.pdf

https://www.rainn.org/safety-prevention

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/02/09/newfoundland-high-schools-response-to-sexual-assault-allegations-re-victimized-girls-mother.html

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2017001/article/54870-eng.htm

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It’s Time . . .