A closer look at CUSD’s rape education policies

In March, two high school athletes in Steubenville, Ohio, were convicted for the rape of a 16-year-old girl. The response through many social media sites seemed to criticize the girl for being drunk and to mourn the loss of two young men’s careers.

Soon after, Torrington, Conn., saw the arrests of two more athletes who raped two 13-year-old girls—girls who were later mocked via social media sites for being “snitches.”

Across the nation, blame for rape is sometimes placed on the victims, not the rapists, raising the question whether rape education is in need of reform.

Though Jeffrey Wright’s Health class has a two-day presentation from the MontereyCountyRapeCrisis Center, the specifics regarding instances of rape and other forms of sexual assault at Carmel High are unknown. CHS is only mandated to conduct a core report from the California Healthy Kids Survey each year and elects not to give the Sexual Behavior report, one of five optional surveys.

Nevertheless, CarmelUnifiedSchool District is not immune to incidents of sexual assault.

A female CHS sophomore says she was standing outside Carmel High’s blackbox theater after school in November when a male student from CarmelMiddle School approached her, asking if she had seen his friend. When she said no, she says he grabbed her breast without consent, making a comment about how nice it was. She then asked him to leave her alone, to which she says he replied that she “had a nice ass” and continued to talk to her as she fled to the theater’s interior.

“I could compare it to [my] house being robbed, basically,” the sophomore says. “I never would have expected in a million years that he would do that to me or that anyone would do that to me.”

According to the sophomore, this instance has altered her feelings of safety, especially at school.

“If I’m here after school hours alone, I definitely don’t feel safe if I see a group of boys I don’t recognize or that I don’t know on a name basis… I really just don’t feel safe alone anymore.”

This CHS student later learned that the same CMS student approached two other CHS girls following the first incident—one in November, one in March—coming up to them from behind and acting in a similar manner, according to the girl.

The sophomore believes that rape education could have prevented or changed the incident.

“I think this boy needs a strong father figure that can teach him about rape education,” she says, “like about consent and about respecting women and about respecting human beings in general. I think we really need to be taught the importance of consent, but it needs to start young.”

In the district, representatives from MontereyRapeCrisis Center also visit middle school students, explaining various aspects of sexual assault, including sexual battery and rape.

“You see it, you emulate it, especially as a kid,” says Kate Kirkwood, an advocate and crisis-line counselor from the MontereyRapeCrisis Center. “You learn it from your parents, your teachers, your friends. You’re led by example, and with how often we use TV and video games, it’s hard not to learn, whether it be good or bad.”

Kirkwood also believes the frequency of rape prevention education is essential to transferring the importance of respect and consent.

“I think the enforcement is important,” Kirkwood mentions. “You only take health your freshman or sophomore year of high school…and the 30-minute video they show you in fifth grade about your changing body. Those are the two experiences you get for health education.”

Efforts on part of the district to transfer the message to young men that rape is not acceptable are essential, according to Wright.

“I think that’s the whole purpose of bringing [representatives from MontereyRapeCrisis Center] in,” Wright notes. “You don’t violate other people. That’s just really fundamental to what we’re talking about.”

Wright and Kirkwood agree that the answer to preventing rape is not simple.

As Kirkwood says, “There is no easy way to just target a specific topic to just make it disappear, but we are trying. We are educating.”

-CARISSA REDFIELD