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Prevalence of sexual assault calls for teaching consent

The importance of sexual education and responsibility in the wake of the Kavanaugh debate

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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was recently appointed to the Supreme Court after confirmation hearings that confronted sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh. His nomination and subsequent confirmation sparked controversy among the public due to these allegations.

An argument made in defense of Kavanaugh was that actions taken at age 17 are not a proper indication of character. The Editorial Board feels it necessary to address assumptions about sexual assault made both as a society and as a smaller community.

Seventeen-year-olds are aware and informed enough to be held responsible for their actions, and the Editorial Board urges all teenagers to consider the weight of their actions. The Editorial Board asks the community to take the actions of teenagers seriously and enact policies to fight and prevent sexual assault within our school.

One area in which the Editorial Board sees room for improvement is the Health Department. Although health classes already address sexual assault, the Editorial Board asks there be a more extensive unit on sexual assault and consent.

Currently, Health covers sexual assault within two days, according to Health Teacher Laura Duffy. Duffy explains how the Health Department brings in the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault to show a silent exhibit about sexual assault.

“We bring them in to really do a lot of the teaching because they are a local resource that our students can then access if they are in need of any help with that,” Duffy said.

The Editorial Board commends the efforts of the Health Department to spread awareness of sexual assault and teach consent to students. However, the Editorial Board recommends the unit be extended in accordance with the changing conversation in society surrounding sexual assault.

Additionally, sexual assault prevention is taught within the self-defense unit of girls’ physical education classes. The Editorial Board urges the Physical Education Department to incorporate more conversation about consent to boys in physical education classes as well. A single day dedicated to the topic would suffice to create multiple touch-points for both sexes and improve prevention as well as reaction.

There is also a necessity for teenagers at South to confront sexual assault. It is largely the responsibility of students to keep one another safe, and by confronting toxic behaviors of friends and classmates, students can change the way sexual assault is dealt with at South.

The South community must combat actions such as joking about sexual assault, coercing others into specific behaviors (whether these behaviors be sexual in nature or not), abusing drugs and alcohol and doubting or discrediting the experiences of classmates.

Senior Phoebe McLain* is a surviver of sexual assault and says South’s dialogue around the issue needs to change. She says in many classes, sexual assault is discussed very casually, which can be hurtful to survivors.

“I don’t think people know that there are [sexual assault survivors here],” McLain said. “ I think there are a handful of people that have been through what I’ve been through, and I just think people speak so casually about it and they’re not aware of the people around them, and that goes both ways for girls and guys.”

The Editorial Board believes it is time to change the culture among teenagers that may tolerate or ignore the realities of sexual assault at South.

Additionally, the Editorial Board encourages students to be aware of the resources available to them. Each student is assigned a social worker and psychologist, who hold a confidentiality agreement with them. Students can use these staff members as useful tools if they are in need of help.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation represents a society-wide tolerance for sexual assault that is rooted in teenage years. By changing the culture among teenagers at South, the Editorial Board believes the student body has the power to affect change in how we deal with issues as a community.

*Names have been changed

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Prevalence of sexual assault calls for teaching consent