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Rape Culture in American High Schools

Rape culture is a pervasive force throughout the world; however, it can be especially damaging and amplified for teenagers in American high schools.

Background:

One in six American men are abused before the age of 18, and one in five American women survive rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to a society’s dominant culture, causing prevalent attitudes and practices to normalize, excuse, and even condone rape. Although a large portion of our population denies and ignores the existence of such a culture, it’s a very real dimension of our society that needs to be acknowledged in order to be solved. Rape culture exists today because of the socially constructed tolerance for the objectification and domination of women. However, I would like to note that rape is not solely perpetrated by males nor does it only happen between a man and a women. Regardless of gender or sexuality, rape is an issue.

Because the culture becomes so ingrained, people argue that this behavior is completely “normal”. I am not satisfied living in a world where rape is a cultural norm. The statistics concerning rape are not simply shocking, they represent real people: people you’re friends with, people you pass in the streets, people of all genders, and those you haven’t even met. Yet, these millions of survivors don’t raise their collective voices to educate this society about our culture of rape out of fear.  We must not flee from this issue just because it makes us uncomfortable. For the sake of the victims of rape or any form of sexual assault, and for the sake of future generations of girls and boys and those in between, we cannot afford to ignore rape culture.

Common effects of sexual assault/rape

  1. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder): Includes nightmares, sexual dysfunction, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable ruminations.
  2. Major Depressive Disorder: Prolonged feelings of emptiness, sadness, loss of energy, lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities typically enjoyed
  3. Drug Abuse: Dependence on drugs/alcohol to disassociate and avoid pain

Call to Action

With problems and cultures as big as this, it can often feel too overwhelming or hard to consider how to make change. However, even as high schoolers, it’s entirely possible to create positive, long lasting impacts in our communities.

At a micro-level, call out your friends. If you see a peer make a rape joke or catcall someone, it’s easy to take just one second to say “Hey, that isn’t cool.” If you want to have a longer talk with that friend or peer, maybe remind them how a rape joke or harassment inherently jeopardizes the self-ownership of an individual’s body.

At a slightly larger scale: Start a club! Raise awareness! At most schools, it’s relatively easy to ask your administration to create a student group dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault, discussing prevention. and discussing #Me Too. Groups like these have the potential to perpetuate real change in communities and provide open spaces for students to have important dialogue.

Similarly, get educated and understand what types of change need to take place in your community. Last year, a friend and I were reading our school’s policy for reporting sexual misconduct, and realized that it lacked transparency, support, and action. So, we brought it to our dean of student life and head of school and they agreed it needed work. The administration let my friend and I completely rewrite our policy, and we spent months researching to create a policy we believed could make a true impact on the school. Here’s a link to the final result! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1B9M6wIgY7fmOdodNMxdZRobG1G7wcwK7/view

About the Author

Hi! My name is Jill Roberts and I’m a senior in high school. I currently live in San Francisco, California and will be attending NYU next year to pursue a career in English Education!

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COMMENTS: 10
  1. April 26, 2019 by sophia.Beardsley

    Hello Jill,
    This was an amazing project. The fact that you helped re write your schools policy inspired me to look at my own school. I liked that you should the facts but then made a comment on how survivors are not just statistics they are real people. This presentation was very empowering to me and I respect the work that you did on it. Also the layout and color choices were perfect.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Kennedy

    Hi Jill! I think that this is such an important issue to talk about. It is so cool that you and your friend has the opportunity to rewrite your school’s policy regarding sexual misconduct. What was originally in the policy? What were the key elements of your improved policy? How did the student body respond to your new policy? Good job!

  3. April 28, 2019 by Stefanie.Pollock

    Hi Jill, I thought your project was really awesome. You approached this topic professionally even though it is controversial. I think that rewriting a school policy is very impressive and has made me step back and look at my own school through this lense of change. How did students react to your new policy, did they even know that you rewrote it? Nice job super empowering!

  4. April 28, 2019 by Lauren Mazza

    I think this project is amazing. It is such an important issue and so prevalent, in this day and age and people need to be educated about it. I also liked how you were very clear that this is not just an issue affecting women.

  5. April 28, 2019 by Riley

    Hello Jill! This presentation was really awesome! Although this is a very controversial topic you handled it very professionally. This was a very empowering presentation and it also had a very pleasing layout.

  6. April 30, 2019 by Abigail.Dutta

    Hi Jill! This was a great project. Your use of statistics was powerful and you really educated me, so I have a better understanding of what the numbers really are surrounding rape in the US. I also think it is really cool that you and your friend re-wrote school policy. I think that you made a really impactful change and that could serve very helpful for your school in the future. Amazing job!

  7. April 30, 2019 by Jaren Manivong

    I really enjoyed reading about your project and research and especially loved how you make it clear that rape culture is perpetuated and experienced by both genders.

  8. April 30, 2019 by Alexandra Polverari

    I really enjoyed your project! The statistics are shocking. I really admire how you saw the issue within your own school’s policy and made a change!

  9. April 30, 2019 by Olivia Reichl

    Jill, first off congrats on NYU, that is amazing! Your page has been super helpful in educating me further on rape statistics. I know this can be a very heavy subject for lots of people, but your approach was super respectful and helpful to teach others how to empathize. I really appreciate the hard work you must’ve put into this presentation, and I will definitely take a lot away from this. Good luck at NYU!

  10. April 30, 2019 by Madison Gearin

    Great project! Your use of statistics is really well placed (and very shocking) and your introduction is great. I don’t understand why this culture can be controversial or denied, it is a huge problem everywhere. Not just in the US. Your information is empathetic and very strong!

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