Letters to the Editor
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:44AM
Time to talk
This letter was triggered by the recent communications from ETHS regarding the April 16 sexual assault investigation. I applaud the school for promptly notifying parents so we could be prepared to discuss the incident with our students.
I am deeply troubled, however, by a portion of the second notification sent by the school (sadly, amplified by the Evanston Review). It inadvertently casts some blame on the victim, saying, “Although the district cannot provide specific information regarding the students involved or any ongoing police investigation, we can confirm that the incident in the stairwell was not a random act. Prior to the incident, the two students involved were in the hallway together before they went to the stairwell.”
I am not an expert in rape, but know it is common that rape victims know their attackers. Even if not ETHS’s intent, it seems to suggest that we should be calm about the incident because it wasn’t “random” and “the two students were involved in the hallway.” This is counter to every message we should send. The school has an opportunity to teach about rape, to dispel myths, and to guard against words that suggest victim consent.
The school’s notice was picked up by media and, therefore, this harmful message about the hallway was widely spread. While we all want ETHS to be safe, we want students everywhere to be safe. Educating people about rape will do more to create safe communities than suggesting we can feel secure because the incident was not “random.”
Two organizations would be excellent resources for training and education: Rape Victim Advocates (www.rapevictimadvocates.org) and Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault (www.nwcasa.org). April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with goals of raising public awareness about sexual violence and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. One of their mottos is, “It’s Time to Talk About It.”
I have encouraged the district to engage these organizations in a proper response to the incident and to form proactive strategies. I hope that each of us thinks carefully about our reactions, words, and actions and realizes, “It’s Time to Talk About It.”