In this day and age, as in the past, it is unfortunate that we still have a critical need to teach teens how and why sexual harassment and assault is wrong. With one in five women reporting rape in their lifetime, and one in 20 men and women reporting sexual violence in their lifetime, we cannot continue to bury this crisis (CDC, 2012). The rate of sexual assault and rape of high school students is alarming. According to the CDC, 42 percent of women report being raped under the age of 18 years and 30 percent of girls report being raped between the ages of 11 to 17 years. Hence, it is imperative that we pay close attention to helping our youth in middle and high schools learn the definitions and behaviors of sexual harassment and assault, and how they are an abuse of power.
Navigating the terrain of sexual harassment and assault with minors is complex and painful, given the myriad of emotional, legal, social, and ethical issues, as outlined by The Washington Post. The possibilities of backlash, victim blaming, self-harm, expulsions, suicide, denial, and apathy create a high-risk landscape for young students and their families.
Stop Sexual Assault in Schools is a national organization that proactively educates and provides resources to K-12 schools and parents, to address the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in schools. With a unique model of prevent, support, inform, and empower, this organization provides us with a model that should be implemented in all K-12 schools across the country. Schools, educational organizations, administrators, and teachers need to make a commitment to their students to develop and implement similar prevention and support models, thereby creating safe classrooms, playgrounds, and after-school environments for their students.
Although there may be disagreement on how to approach the national crisis of youth sexual harassment and assault, here are some possibilities that could foster awareness, empowerment, and prevention amongst teenagers in middle and high schools:
Be a part of the change and make a commitment to take the steps to teach our teens, in schools and homes, how and why sexual harassment and assault are wrong and an abuse of power.