Groups Address Forced Sex
By Dianne Anderson
What part of sexual assault is hard to understand?
At least at the teenage level, probably most of it.
Debbie Sacks, a longtime educator, past teacher, and principal, said students and parents usually go through the motions of signing off on an agreement at school stating they know the rules, that any harassment or sexual assault must be reported to administration.
“But do we do anything that’s preventative? Not that I know of,” said Dr. Sacks, who sits on the board of Women Wonder Writers, a Riverside-based nonprofit.
Some of the lack of awareness around sexual assault may stem from confusion on the actual definition.
Having worked over three decades in public education, Sacks recognizes the root of the problem from her days as a health teacher.
Words like rape are seldom, if ever, discussed in traditional class settings, as educators must stick to tight statewide curriculum guidelines in bringing up tough subjects. It also prevents teens from having a real discussion that could save a life.
When she was teaching health, certain topics could be presented in a clinical way, such as the variety of birth control, but never a conversation like rape. In the early 1990s, she wasn’t allowed to say anything about AIDS other than what was stated in the book chapter, about one and a half pages of little substance.
“Topics like AIDS would be discussed. Even there, it’s really minimal, especially when it comes to controversial topics like sexual abuse,” she said.
Today, she believes that schools rely on outside organizations to get the word out, which gives kids a chance to be more open about the issues they face daily, but not everyone attends informative after-school programs.
Her organization is trying to open up the social-emotional learning component within their curriculum because students are not learning about these topics at home, or at school.
Date rape happens on a college campus, but apparently, it is also happening for younger teens. Even so, administrators, and school boards still get nervous about bringing it up.
“If there were a group of girls that wanted to start a club, and talk about their situation, that would be a start. I think we’re still silent about it and we shouldn’t be,” she said.
Last week, a Halt the Assault event brought out a number of young men and women to spark discussion and change in the #metoo epidemic. Young men came for an open mic in downtown Riverside to talk about their role in the process, or if they even understand their role.
“They were saying there was no excuse for their actions in the past, but they were raised to be a predator towards girls since they were little. That you got to get in on that action, you gotta get that done.”
From 1991 through 2017, the Center for Disease Control has administered over 1,900 separate surveys for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for data collection on over 4.4 million high school students to shed light on what teens think, feel and do.
Of the 3.8 million high school students surveyed, the agency reports that over 28 percent of students said they had sex within the past three months. Teens seem to be less sexually active overall, but those that do engage are not wearing condoms, and are more at risk of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
Use of condoms dropped from 61 percent in the 2007 survey to 53.8 percent in 2017, with 15-24-year-olds now making up half all new STD infections in the United States.
One-fifth of all students say they have been bullied, and one in ten females said they were forced to have sex. At last count, 7.4 percent of students reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the year prior to the survey, with females more at risk at 9.3 percent than males at 5.1 percent.
Suicide attempts among Black females were at 12.5 percent, and Black males at 6.7 percent. Hispanic females were at 10.5 percent, Hispanic males at 5.8 percent compared to white females at 7.3 percent, and white males at 4.6 percent, the CDC report said.
Terry Boykins, CEO of Street Positive, hosted the event, and said sexual assault is a huge issue nationwide, but no one wants to talk about it responsibly.
Boys and girls do not understand defining lines because no one at school is talking about it, that is, if school administrators know what it is, or understand what to do about it.
“How long did sex trafficking happen on campus before they got hip to it? School administrators just figured out last year that the youth are getting called out using their cell phones,” said Boykins, also on the board of Women Wonder Writers.
At the event, some young men talked in Spoken Word about the blurred lines in response to the #Metoo Movement. The event hoped to shed light on what young men actually consider as sexual assault.
“Who is responsible for the line? She went out with me she met me we drank, we went back to my place. If she didn’t want to, why did she come back to my place?”
Boykins talked about how sex education is not presented in a way that teens can relate to. There is still too much confusion on consensual sex. Sex education is not reaching the students in a way that could be effective.
He said the system has to go beyond academic formalities for the purpose of meeting curriculum standards.
“You don’t deal with the emotional and mental maturity of boys in particular, of what is the line, what is consent, what is harassment. Who’s in whose space? How do you define space?” he asks.