While not initially noticeable as you first walk through the halls, sexual assault is something that is prevalent in high schools across the globe. So much so that, according to RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization, around half of all sexual assault cases occur before the victim is eighteen. Every case, from the most well-known to the least, leaves the victim with severe trauma and at times even PTSD. It follows them for the rest of their lives and can sometimes never go away. It becomes even more of a problem when victims are not believed or ridiculed when speaking out about their problems. This normalizes sexual assault, a problem intensified in high school where pressure from peers can make speaking up even more difficult. This environment allows abusers to walk free.
In an attempt to curb these problems, Eagan High School is hosting a class on how to deal with sexual assault. This class, called Not Me, will be led by community education and will take place on Saturday, May 12. While it is intended for senior girls, anyone is welcome to participate. The main focus of these classes is to teach young people how to stay safe on a college campus. According to Dr. Reikowski, “The class will help empower kids to understand that they can say no, and how to get kids out of compromising situations when they feel like they’re trapped.” It is meant to help young people understand what consent looks like, and how to set boundaries.
Even though sexual assault is dealt with severely at Eagan High School, there are areas in which victims struggle. “We need to listen to the voices of the victims. Hearing how the process worked, how it would work better, if there’s things that we’re forgetting.” explained Tara Hedlund, who deals with cases of student sexual assault. “With each case I learn different things.” Cases of sexual assault among students bring up more problems as well. Often times, victims can feel uncomfortable being in the same building as their attacker. In some cases, the victims and attacker could even have classes or eat lunch together. “I think it’s definitely a forward step in educating young minds about this,” explained Hedlund when asked how to the victims’ experiences could be improved. “I think sometimes there’s the taboo to the topic. I think it’s important to build some pieces into our curriculum.”
Additionally, curriculum in health classes is often overlooked. “I think that kids need to know that they can’t be naive,” Reikowski related. “They’re going to start the cycle next year and hold hearings about what to include in classes.” There has been talk of adding curriculum that goes over how to deal with sexual assault, and how to prevent it from happening. While details haven’t been released, the curriculum is said to be similar to that of the Not Me class.
While there is still a lot of progress to be made for high school sexual assault victims, these changes are a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the new curriculum being put in place will curb the number of sexual assault victims and teach students the meaning of the word consent. “I would have wanted my daughters to take this class,” stated Reikowski. “Survivors are forever damaged, there’s a piece of you that’s forever gone.”