In recent events, serious allegations of sexual misconduct have arisen and taken the spotlight in mainstream media. More recently, the case against Larry Nassar has come into focus. Dr. Nassar was a renowned doctor in the medical community, who slowly led his way up the ranks and became the head doctor who dealt with many of the female Olympic gymnasts. However, it was learned that Nasser had actually been assaulting many of these gymnasts during medical examinations. This was a shock to those who had been oblivious to the obvious: sexual harassment has always been here, and it’s no longer welcome.
This violence has only become so evident after social movements such as “Time’s up”, “Me Too”, or more recently “Cover the Athlete”. The “Time’s up” movement began after a slew of women began to expose their attackers via social media, describing what had been done to them. This came after a year and a half of individual cases discussed on the news. The “Cover the Athlete” began after audience and Olympians from Rio noticed how interviewers would not focus on women’s accomplishments, but their appearance and what they wore. But how does this affect teens? This clearly has no correlation to me or you or any student attending high school.
And yet, it does.
Public schools are notorious for letting people get away with things as simple as opening someone else’s locker to having “fight weeks”. This, however, does not exclude sexual harassment allegations. The provided articles below have given some insight into what girls went through as they progressed in their high school careers. A fourteen-year-old girl last month accused her gym teacher, Jim Whiteaker, of grabbing her butt. The same teacher was accused in 1998, for a similar occurrence, but it was only reported after graduation. Another girl, Shaneiko Cummins, said that had happened to her in May of 2013. The experience was described as “he grabbed my shoulder… I told him to let go… the doctor had diagnosed me with a torn labrum in my shoulder… he told me to no go to the nurse”. The principal had said to not go to police until the district investigated the situation. The investigation never transpired.
In another case, a former teacher of Passaic High School, Jose Maria, engaged in inappropriate conversation and actions with two students, who have now graduated and reported the incidents. Conversely, students are also to blame for the assault taking place. From schools all across the country, girls have reported male classmates of grabbing their breasts and buttocks, and forming gangs to “force [girls] into storage closets and assault them”. Even scarier, elementary school boys creating a Friday ritual of “slap a** Fridays”. In total, from years 2011 to 2015, there were 17,000 reported incidents in the United States. Although this may seem like all the cases out there, many are either scared to report it or might classify it as bullying.
In a way, it does boil down to bullying. “It’s just locker room talk” or “you’re just a girl; you don’t know what you’re doing” are all forms of verbal and emotional harassment. So, why don’t we treat it like bullying? Thankfully, schools are beginning to recognize these situations. Now, teachers are promoting the idea of not letting someone ‘into your space’ without your permission. Or even more directly, teaching them to not blame the victim. New Jersey administrations are also now recognizing the abundant amount of cases being discovered, and are actually firing teachers the minute the stories released. The justice system has charged multiple teachers for their crimes, sending a message to incoming teachers that this is not tolerated. And more importantly, the state government has taken it into their hands to propose bills that will strengthen background checks on teachers and make it easier for students who are still in high school to come forward.
Fortunately, I have never had to experience this neither has any of my friends or anyone else (officially) at SB has had to undergo the circumstances. I am also grateful that this movement has finally taken place when it did, so I can watch change happen. The prominence of this movement empowers teens to find our voices and speak up. And we know that because of this movement we will be heard.
Maybe it is going to get better for the girls and boys of this generation. Maybe, in a few years from now, they won’t have to watch the news every day, wondering which teacher or which celebrity has been accused of sexual assault. Maybe they’ll look back and laugh at how idiotic all of this really is, pondering (and never having to experience) the terrible cycle that is the behavior of humanity.