Education provides the first step in preventing assault

The Kavanaugh hearing and nomination has brought one thing to our attention: the nation needs better consent education to ensure we live in a different America. Better education on consent and healthy relationships at the high school level is a practical idea no matter what side of the political aisle one stands. No reasonable person advocates for less education on these topics, so it’s not a matter of whether we should, it’s a matter of how.
Between the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh hearing, recently America has been forced to confront its delusions on the safety of its citizens. As many of these women’s stories began to be heard, critics raised the question of “Why now? Why after all these years?” Many victims of sexual assault experience a mottle of shame, self-blaming, and intense trauma that lead to them burying or denying that it happened. This suggests that rather than see these as sources of doubt, society needs to recognize them as what they are: effects of assault.
According to the New York Times, a large portion of victims were first victimized in high school or younger, so it is only reasonable that education on these topics starts this early. Many women in older generations have never been formally educated on what actually defines sexual assault or harassment. Perpetrators can often downplay their actions by assuring they were joking around or convincing them it’s normal. So for many victims who haven’t been educated on what constitutes a violation of boundaries, they have nothing to confirm their experiences.
“It is important for our students to understand personal boundaries, right and wrong, and more importantly the magnitude of our actions,” said Health teacher Carolyn Gaffke. “In Health, we talk about sexual harassment, as well as sexual assault and what this can look like, how it can be misinterpreted. There will come a point where our students become adults and they will have to make smart decisions so they remain safe. We also talk about how our actions impact those around us, which we are seeing in the media in some of these cases.”
Educating students on this topic is beneficial, but it is important not to solely focus on educating young women on identifying and handling sexual misconduct. That tells women that this is an inevitability and that is not right. It is important that all students are educated on consent, boundaries, and how not to violate it. It is important to extend education past what a victim should do and into the territory of how can society curb potential perpetrators. Preventing misconduct, harassment, and assault is more effective than educating students on what to do if you are a victim.
“It’s important to educate our students and make sure that they are taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe. It’s also important for us, as teachers, to support our students and allow them to feel safe here at school,” Gaffke said.
Educating students on respecting others’ boundaries is the first step in creating a new America without victim blaming. Hopefully, in this new America, there will be no room for questions like, ‘what was she wearing?’ or ‘she was drunk, what did she expect?’. Especially taking into account recent events, these changes need to start at the high school level.