Souza: Why kids should be taught about sexual assault

Sexual abuse incidents can be seen throughout the world, haunting the past of victims and looming in the future of today’s children.

Furthermore despite the United States having a strong hold on women’s rights and strict laws against sexual abuse, such abuse still exists. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.”

Such a high number of sexual abuse victims are able to persist in today’s society due to the naivety among the public of what constitutes as sexual abuse and the warning signs as well as resources to turn to. The lack of knowledge regarding sexual abuse, as a whole, is a consequence of the lack of education from a young age about body advocacy and respectful relationship conduct.

The absence of proper discussions about healthy relationships conveys the idea that it is improper to “stick one’s nose” into other’s relationships and, moreover, to burden others with one’s fear about their own relationship.

Of course, there is no such thing as a correct relationship; however, there is a way to have a safe and respectful one.

On the other hand, media and pornography are some examples in society that display unrealistic expectations of sexual relationships. Therefore, proper education on healthy relationships and the signs of sexual abuse is mandatory in order to counter the negative ideas projected by pornography and the media.

Furthermore, the actual definition of sexual abuse is muddy. As a result, many simplify it to just rape incidents. However, what constitutes as sexual abuse is not that simple.

According to a pamphlet given to freshman entering UO in a program called “Get Explicit,” sexual assault is defined as, “…a nonconsensual act inflicted upon a person…,” the victim being someone “Who is unable to grant consent…” and is often “…compelled through unwanted: physical force, manipulation, coercion, threats, [and] intimidation.”

The definition seems pretty obvious: Assault and abuse mean unwanted violence and misuse. But many people never receive proper information about what constitutes as sexual abuse until they enter college. Therefore due to the lack of education on sexual abuse, many boys and girls have already become victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Thus education about sexual abuse and healthy relationships should be implemented into children’s schooling starting in sixth grade, the age when interest in dating often arises.

Moreover, children should be made aware throughout their schooling what the warning signs are of possible dangerous relationships as well as what exactly sexual assault is. Sexual abuse is not only heterosexual penetration but can include all genders, races, sexual orientations and can be any kind of non-consensual sexual act. Resources should be made apparent in case the child finds themselves in a sexually abusive situation in the future.

Also, the power of language should be addressed when teaching children about sexual abuse. Language used in sexual abuse cases are often generalizing, demeaning or contain a nature of “blowing over” the situation.

A prime example that exemplifies how language can degrade the true negative effect of sexual abuse happened just this year, thanks to Donald Trump. A video surfaced in early October presenting audio in which Donald Trump speaks behind the scenes of Access Hollywood of actions that constitute as sexual assault.

Trump defends himself during the second presidential debate by claiming he did not “brag” about sexually assaulting women, and then on multiple occasions Trump refers to his comments as just casual “locker room talk.”

Unfortunately, many people overlooked our next president’s comments because they were unable to identify that Trump’s words were alluding to sexual assault.

Lastly in a study investigating the effect of “Bystander Education Training” in regards to sexual abuse on college campuses, there was a correlation of education and increase in sexual abuse reporting as well as a reduce in abuse-supporting attitudes and actions. The abstract of the study explicitly states, “These results provide initial support for the effectiveness of in-person bystander education training.

Therefore it can be theorized that education taught from sixth grade on about sexual assault warnings, resources, language and the effects of demeaning language will lay the foundation of healthy knowledgeable relationships, eliminating the ignorance of what sexual assault is and what to do in such situations.  

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Katie Souza

Katie Souza