As survivors of sexual assault came forward with their stories on social media in late January, conversations of sexual misconduct were thrust into the spotlight within the Paly community. Despite past Title IX turmoil in the district and the subsequent increase in consent education, it is clear rape culture remains deeply entrenched within our student body.
First and foremost, The Campanile stands with survivors. To those who have chosen to speak out about their experiences, you have displayed immense courage and strength in the face of injustice. To those who have not told others about their own experiences, The Campanile supports you and your healing process. No one deserves to experience sexual misconduct, and it was not your fault.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an American is sexually assulted every 73 seconds. One in six American women have fallen victim to attempted or completed rape. This issue is pervasive not only within Paly, but throughout the country.
The people in these statistics are not numbers on a page. Our peers are survivors. Our friends are survivors. Our family members are survivors. Many of us are survivors.
It is practically impossible to know how many of your friends and loved ones have been personally impacted by sexual misconduct. Thus, The Campanile thinks it is imperative the Paly community become more supportive and sensitive to victims’ experiences — without community support for survivors, perpetrators will never be held fully accountable for their heinous actions.
Making Paly a safe space for survivors is only the first step toward addressing the underlying issue — ultimately, sexual violence has no place at Paly and must be stopped before it occurs.
There are two central tenets to preventing sexual misconduct: education and culture.
PAUSD has implemented semi-regular consent training and Title IX awareness programs, but for the most part these have proven ineffective. They occur in large groups where there is little to no audience interaction, and involve students watching as a speaker or district employee lectures about proper sexual conduct.
Instead, such training needs to take place in smaller groups to ensure participants are engaged and can interact with the material in a safer environment. Through discussion and the sharing of personal opinions and experiences, clubs like Paly RISE and Bring Change To Mind have stepped up to provide students with a safe place to talk and learn from each other about issues of sexual misconduct. PAUSD ought use this example to make their training programs more personal and impactful in the long run.
The content of PAUSD’s sexual misconduct education is also flawed — it often places the burden of safety and prevention on potential victims rather than perpetrators. For instance, a recent Title IX lecture told girls not to send nude pictures of themselves because the recipients would share them; while there is certainly merit to this cautionary advice, the speaker never addressed the recipient’s side or urged recipients not to share any images received. This type of one-sided teaching is harmful. It doesn’t address the role of the perpetrator in sexual misconduct, thus normalizing and enabling their actions.
Through changes to both the consent education and presentation of that information to students, PAUSD can foster a healthier culture at Paly. Beyond administrative decisions, however, students are often on the front lines of the fight against sexual assault. Students must stand up for each other.
From telling a peer that a sexist joke is offensive to breaking up a potentially dangerous situation at a party, students must do whatever we can to prevent sexual misconduct in whatever form it takes.