2020 has been a very distressing and unpredictable year so far. However, it has also forced society to address certain pressing social issues, including, but not limited to, the ongoing struggle against racially motivated police brutality, as well as racism in general. In addition to the Black Lives Matter movement, the #metoo movement has started gaining further recognition in these past couple of weeks. Many celebrities are rightly being held accountable for past offenses relating to sexual harassment/assault and other misdemeanors. Something that really shocked me, however, is the me-too movement that has begun within my high school. It started about a week ago, when a freshman girl posted about her story on Instagram. This post prompted many other people to share their stories as well, including both current students at my high school as well as recent alumni. While these stories are very important and definitely need to be heard, they also made me realize a few very shocking (and frankly, distressing) aspects about the culture at my high school, which can honestly represent almost any other typical high school.
First off, when the perpetrators in these stories were reported, they were never duly punished to the obvious severity of their offense(s). The football team in particular is very highly regarded and, consequently, highly protected at my high school. Despite the fact that a number of allegations has been made against players, no definitive action has been taken to ensure that the rape and harassment culture is not sustained. Expulsions, suspensions, even game suspensions are virtually nonexistent. Rape, assault, and other forms of degrading behavior are in fact, allowed to continue, due to the lack of direct conversation and confrontation on these issues, primarily by the administration. The stories keep coming- yet the football uniform unfortunately acts as an armour of sorts, as players continue to flaunt their jerseys to school on game days, regardless of the internal problems within the program.
On a similar note, another disturbing, yet recurring, theme in these stories is that victims had to continue to attend school alongside their perpetrators. I cannot even imagine the feeling of seeing someone who violated you on a daily basis not being held accountable. A common response to this concept is the argument that victims of sexual assault have to first report their case, as administrative action and punishment cannot be taken if no one knows about the incident. Of course, this is true. However, it is difficult to find the courage to speak up when the culture in your school is so obviously biased towards perpetrators and against victims. It can be very discouraging when you know that in most cases, the people in charge will not be inclined to seriously consider your story or furthermore take any effective steps to bring justice.
Here is one instance of this lack of involvement and action by the school administration. Two days ago, a few students created an me-too instagram account for our high school, to serve as a platform for people to anonymously (or not) share their story in a welcoming space. Over the course of these two days, the account had gained over a thousand followers, and there had been around 100 submissions from current and past students sharing their experiences. The administration, which has by now most definitely been made aware of the movement, has not yet publicly addressed the situation. On the other hand, a social media post against a particular teacher, for example, would immediately be addressed and the student would face certain consequences.
I understand that much of what I have discussed so far pertains to my high school specifically. However, our school is certainly not unique in its issues relating to rape culture and harassment. We must work towards a culture where victims, female and male, feel comfortable enough to share their story without the fear of simply not being believed or being shamed. While rallies are conducted and petitions are signed, there must also be change within the culture and mindset of the school community.
If you are reading this and you have gone through sexual assault, harassment, and a related case, just know that you are not alone and that you deserve to be heard. It is not your fault. I, though you probably do not know me, and many others support you.
Here is the number to the confidential sexual assault hotline: 800-656-4673