Breaking the silence

Claire Boysen, features editor

When our administrators and teachers discuss issues in teenage culture, whether it be in a classroom or assembly, they talk about things like substance abuse, mental health and bullying. But they are forgetting something crucial. They barely touch on the topic that 44 percent (90/204) of KHS students who have gone through or know someone who has gone through it. The administrators and teachers don’t talk about it because if no one says anything about it, the issue fades away: if we don’t talk about it, it does not exist. This is something administrators feel is important to discuss, but for now are unsure how.

The only time we learn about rape and sexual assault at KHS is in health class for a few days. Even then, we are told just to report it to a trusted adult. We have signs in bathrooms telling us to report any abuse. We have multiple assemblies throughout the year (that are even open to parents) to talk about drug abuse and how to get help. We are not afraid to talk about the students who have died from heroin overdoses. We are not afraid to bring in people who have experienced firsthand drug abuse to talk to our students. But we are afraid of talking about how to help students who may be in a different, yet equally damaging situation. We cannot expect students to confide in any adult at KHS if even the staff does not talk about rape. By dismissing this issue, KHS is unintentionally allowing rape culture (excusing or tolerating sexual violence) to exist within our school.

While rape is by no means restricted to any one gender, girls are undoubtedly more affected. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 17.7 million women and 2.78 million men have reported being victims of attempted or completed rape since 1998. And while KHS has recently been more progressive in dealing with racial inequalities in our community, by holding open assemblies, we still lack with gender inequalities. Even if it is not being able to walk down a sidewalk without the fear of someone catcalling you, the demeaning culture girls experience makes them less likely to come forward about being a victim of sexual assault. Similarly, the stereotype that boys should ‘man-up’ and not talk about personal or traumatic events increases the likelihood that they won’t talk about what happened to them.

Maybe the reason we don’t talk about rape is because at KHS we have the notion that everything here is the best it can be. We like to think we are at the top when it comes to academics, the arts and athletics. We talk about underage substance abuse because that is stereotypically what high schoolers do. But if we talk about one of our Pioneers being sexually assaulted, that would remove the veil and force us to finally see the harsh reality.

In order to protect our students, we need to have conversations about rape even if it may seem uncomfortable at first. According to RAINN, girls aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be victims of attempted rape, completed rape or sexual assault than the rest of the population. So, if high school girls are more prone to experience rape or sexual assault, how can we be so irresponsible as to ignore it?

But as students know, rape is not invisible in the lives of teenagers. We see this on social media where the #MeToo movement is taking place, where people who have been victim of sexual assault post the hashtag in order to bring awareness. But according to one KHS student, in order to really solve this issue, it cannot only be the responsibility of the students. Like class-wide drug assemblies, we must all come together to talk about rape and sexual assault in order to make KHS a safe place for victims. We cannot place the responsibility to be fully educated on rape and sexual assault solely on the students.

The only way for KHS to solve this issue, is simple: talk about rape and sexaul assault. This cannot be an issue that doesn’t leave the health room. This cannot be an issue that is only dealt with in bathroom posters. This must be an issue that we, as a community, get together and educate ourselves on rape and sexual assault; we must teach people how to not only protect themselves, but that they also have a safe place to come forward and get help. It is nothing but irresponsible that KHS is too afraid to talk about rape; if we want to ensure safety for every Pioneer, we cannot stop at substance abuse. Rape must also be part of the conversation.