One in four girls and one in 20 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, with alcohol and drugs playing a factor in many cases.
“Almost every female can tell you a story about that, whether they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable or worse,” history teacher Peter Medine said. “And I think the big shocking thing, for me as the guy, is just how common it really is.”
Teenagers are learning new social codes regarding consent and the acceptance of sex under the influence.
“At parties you’re never really going to be like ‘Hey can I kiss you?’ Instead you just start doing stuff,” junior Rachel Way said. “And I think it can get to a point where you should be asking ‘Hey do you want to do this?’ instead of just making a move, because a lot of people aren’t going to say anything.”
At our school, the accepted reality is that continuous, sober consent is not always achievable. Because alcohol impairs judgement, hooking up while drunk can create dangerous settings that escalate quickly.
“And the next thing I know, we were kissing, and then he had his hand on my leg,” a junior girl said. “ I wanted to go back to the rest of the party and he was like ‘no don’t leave’ and I said, ‘Why? I want to go… this isn’t right.’ And then I was hiding, because all my friends were drunk too, and all my friends were making out with people and getting high, and I was trying to avoid him because I was getting really scared at that point.”
Our widespread acceptance of hooking up at parties leads to emotional and sexual trauma. The feeling that one gets knowing their entire life could be changed, their integrity could be ruined, their sense of safety could be forever altered, is strong enough to call for action.
Not only does our culture allow these situations to occur in the first place, but we have social obstacles keeping victims from reporting their experiences. When less than one-third of sexual assaults get reported, and only three percent of rapists spend a day in jail, society breeds a stigma against reporting sexual crimes. Students have felt this pressure to keep quiet when faced with sexual violations.
“I didn’t want to make a scene, because if you make a scene, if you call for help at a party, you would get a target on yourself as a girl, because there’s a stigma already, like, oh my God, she’s a slut,” the junior said. “So even if you are calling for help, people are still going to sh*t on you.”
While the discussion of sexual assault being brought up is crucial to tackling this social dilemma, we need to encourage legal precedent that will support people’s willingness to report abuse. Many assaults go unreported because of ineffective and insensitive handling of these situations and social pressures to keep quiet about such topics.
“Until we start having the courts hold people accountable, all the talking and teaching and all of that is not supported by the legal aspect,” health teacher Nicole Carter said. “They need to start handling their weight. And once they start holding people accountable, then I think you'll start to see more people report, because they'll feel supported.”
Consent is black and white, not shades of grey. While it is never the victim’s fault, students should try to stay safe, know their own limits, and be in control of their situation.
“If you’re going to go out and go to a party and be under the influence, have someone that will take care of you, because a lot of things can happen and you never know,” senior Erick Muñoz said.