How to teach young people about sexual assault?

Use current day events as an opportunity to foster critical thinking and discussion

Two weeks before Denim Day on April 26th 2017, four of CPAF prevention youth leaders led a discussion on the controversial court case that lay the foundation for Denim Day with their peers and adult allies at Alhambra High School. CPAF’s youth leaders explained the actual court case and facilitated a discussion on whether the court’s ruling was fair or not.

Statistic: 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted at one point in their life (nsvrc.org)

For those who were unfamiliar with the case, CPAF youth leaders shared that in 1999, an 18 year old girl in Italy was learning how to drive when her 45-year old instructor drove her to an isolated spot, forced her to get out, and raped her. This crime against the girl eventually got the attention of the highest court in Italy. In the end, the court ruled that the girl could not be raped since she was wearing tight jeans, as the girl must have given her consent if they were taken off.

The discussion on the court case ended up leading to a larger discussion on sexual assault of women in our society. Students wondered why women tend to be blamed for causing the assault because of what they were wearing or how they were acting while men were not as often held accountable for their actions. This point led one student to ask why at their high school there are more campus policies regulating what girls can wear compared to what boys can wear.

One student shared that if this case happened in the present day, the judge probably would rule in favor of the girl, which resulted in other students sharing about recent cases that proved otherwise- including the Brock Turner case and the case of Emma Sulkowicz, who carried her mattress around Columbia University until her rapist was removed.

In the end, we concluded that our aim wasn’t to attack any particular group, but that we wanted to come together to fight for what is right so everyone can be better off.

Discussions like these can give young people the space to share their perspectives and learn together- and ultimately, help change the narrative to re-shape norms and beliefs we hold around sexual assault.

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