Taking a Stand: Sexual Assault

“Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape, groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner.” -United States Department of Justice

Essentially, sexual assault entails trespassing upon the personal boundaries of someone’s physical and mental being. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. This horrifying statistic solidifies with the number of sexual assaults each year reaching 293,000, with victims aging twelve years of age or older. Of course, this report excludes the fact that 68% of assaults are never reported to the police, and the terrifyingly shocking truth that 98% of perpetrators will never spend a day of their life in jail.

If after reading that data, you didn’t feel a cold shiver run down your spine, rest assured that very shortly you will. Imagine yourself in the dark. Alone. Scared. Fearing for your life. As a victim of sexual assault, that is how you feel every single day. When the light shines bright, you feel casted by a shadow, ashamed of your reality and isolated because of your experience. In essence, it becomes the bane of your existence. With no one to turn to, victims of sexual assault face one of the most challenging obstacles, and more often than not, face it alone.

In today’s world, sexual assault has become prevalent in far too many places. College campuses, for example, have received ample attention in the past few years, and for all the wrong reasons. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. In this file, the President exposed a statistic which read, “one in five women is sexually assaulted in college.” Not only is this fact frightening, but it also addresses the severity of this problem and emphasizes the necessity for change. However, it is important to realize that sexual assault can occur anywhere at any time. And it is for this reason that Loomis has taken on the challenge of raising awareness and educating its students.

What society doesn’t seem to understand is that consent is not a grey area. It is either yes, or no—simple as that. In regards to the mutual agreement that should constitute the enablement of any sexual activity, Dean Liscinsky emphasized something that many people generally underestimate and too often disregard. “Sexual assault is the result of many factors, one of which is the lack of respect for others,” she said. I am a strong believer that respect lies at the center of this tragic matter, and without firmly establishing boundaries, the problem of sexual assault will never be solved. Until people learn to respect one another, the issue will be exacerbated and develop even more drastically.
At Loomis, we recognize that the safety of our student’s mental and physical being comes first. With the direction of junior Sara Boe, the Norton Center for The Common Good began an initiative that focuses on discussing the topic of sexual assault in a mature and effective manner. She so eloquently expressed her desire to “engage our high-school community in being proactive, aware of, and interested in positively influencing this issue.” The hope is that by indulging in these conversations, students will feel comfortable and safer in the Loomis environment. Furthermore, by opening up the discussion and eliminating the stigma that surrounds this subject which is frequently classified as taboo, we can hopefully prevent these incidents from ever occurring on our campus. As Mr. LaForest conveyed, “If we are setting out to identify ways to operate as a more inclusive and equitable community, discussing sexual assault publicly and preemptively makes a great deal of sense.”

Sexual assault is an issue that has been deprived of the attention it merits. Though it is by no means a problem of slight concern, it rarely garners proper care. The ways in which sexual assault is treated has caused a great and long overdue riot in the college world, which has spurred discussion all over. For the first time, students are speaking up and taking a stand against sexual harassment, violence, and assault. If we all make a conscious effort to educate, understand, and respect each other, there may possibly be a day when few people are stuck alone in the dark, and a day when we can all live together in the light, safe and unafraid, in a world of respect.