It’s Time to Have “The Talk”

Blind Brook High School is a top-notch educational institution.

Doubtful? Just take a peek at the U.S. News & World Report’s selection of best high schools in which we are rated #73 in the country and #9 in the state of New York.

But when we examine the high school’s mission statement, cracks begin to shatter the facade. We are told that our school is committed to instilling “…integrity as a core value” and to influencing “…our students to be ethical and responsible members of society.”

This should mean that my fellow students and I have been amply prepared for the trials and tribulations of higher learning. But it does not.

As a community, we are painfully lacking education in one of the most pervasive problems on college campuses: sexual violence. With nearly all of Blind Brook graduates attending college each year, it is especially important to provide this information before students collect their diplomas.

The topic is broached during the sexual education unit in Health and in electives such as Criminal Law and AP Psychology, but then largely tossed aside for the remainder of high school. And when we do discuss sexual violence—meaning assault, harassment, and rape—in school, we do so in a way that keeps the issue at arm’s length, as if to say, “Yes, this happens, but not to us, not to you, not to people you know.”

This method sterilizes sexual violence and attempts to make it a clear-cut, Styrofoam-packaged deal. But sexual violence is messy. It is confusing and it is definitely hard to talk about with a bunch of teenagers. The ambiguous borders between innocence and malice, intent and circumstance, right and wrong make it immensely challenging to understand.

But that doesn’t mean that we should give up. If anything, it means that we must strive harder for clarity.

The first step we must take is to cement the concept of consent. Too often, students struggle both with defining consent and identifying when it is or is not being given.

In fact, a recent article by The Washington Post showed that of the one thousand college students surveyed, nearly all were mystified when asked to determine if nonverbal signs of approval, such as nodding one’s head or getting a condom, demonstrated consent.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control also shows that approximately 20% of women and 6.25% of men will become victims of sexual violence on campus.

This means that when my fellow graduates and I march across the SUNY Purchase stage this June, every fifth woman will be walking headfirst into a statistic that says she is likely to be raped, assaulted, or harassed.

Right now, Blind Brook is squandering its ability to work against this statistic. We have the resources to do so—$42,817,803 worth, according to the 2015-16 Proposed Budget. Allocating even the smallest piece of this could transform our education.

New speakers could be brought in to inform students of the realities of sexual violence. Workshops could be established that allow students of all genders to practice avoidance and prevention techniques. A myriad of possibilities exist that would help arm students Blind Brook students with the tools we need to counteract the threat of sexual violence by the time we reach college.

If Blind Brook still is not convinced—if prevention aimed towards the future is not worth the time or money—then think about this: from seventh to twelfth grade, 58% of students are victimized by sexual violence in some form, from being touched in an unwanted sexual manner to being coerced into performing a sexual act (United States Department of Justice).

The ramifications of this are immense. Survivors are known to avoid school and school-related activities, develop mental illnesses, attempt self-harm, and report issues with substance abuse.

So, does Blind Brook truly want to mold us into “ethical and responsible members of society”? If so, it is time that it pairs academia with a social conscience. We have a moral obligation to ourselves and to each other, to our present and to our future.

We need awareness. We need education. We need change.