Sexual assault has become a spotlight in the media. Recent events, such as the Kavanaugh case and the #metoo movement have drawn attention to sexual assault and harassment. This has then opened up a discussion on how we respond to sexual misconduct. The movement against sexual harassment is gaining more attention than ever. However, when we look closely at the issue of peer-on-peer sexual assault in high schools, there is a widely underrepresented issue. From 2013 to 2014 there were 2,800 reported issues of peer-on-peer sexual assault cases with over 3,300 known victims.
This is why we must require schools to educate both students and staff on how to handle peer-on-peer sexual assault, along with requiring schools to correctly identify and report sexual assault between students.
When the topic of sexual assault in high schools is brought up we immediately think it to be a teacher on student issue because those are the cases that are shown and represented. However, for every adult on student sexual assault, there are seven such issues by students. A news and feature from the national education association stated that, “From 2011 to 2015 about 17,000 sexual assault cases were committed by U.S. students, AP [associated press analysis of federal crime data] found, although the number is most likely higher because assaults are under-reported or mislabeled as bullying, particularly among young victims.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, nearly 20% of girls ages 14 to 17 were sexually victimized. During the 2007-08 school year, there were 800 reported incidents of rape and attempted rape and 3,800 reported incidents of other sexual batteries at public high schools. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 30 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17 ½.
Currently, high schools are not representing the severity of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. Title IX safety protections state that “schools receiving federal funds must ensure that sexual harassment or sexual violence does not create a hostile environment that denies or limits a students ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s education programs or activities.”. To avoid Title IX issues, schools often label sexual assault as bullying due to the fact that there are no federal laws that apply to bullying. The constant miss-labeling of peer-on-peer sexual assault cases lets the problems continue to occur throughout the perpetrator’s high school experience due to the incorrect repercussions. The lack of tracking of peer-on-peer sexual assaults in high schools also creates a statistical error that undermines the severity of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. Elementary and secondary schools have no national requirement to disclose or track sexual violence. Currently, only 32 states track student on student sexual assault, and only 17 states require sexual assault training. Minnesota does not require training but does keep records of sexual assault. Neighbors Iowa and Wisconsin require training but do not keep records. We must raise the standard we hold schools to in terms of tracking and educating staff and students on peer-on-peer sexual assault in order to increase the safety of students.
We must require peer-on-peer sexual harassment training to all school staff members in order to ensure that staff and administrators are capable of correctly and effectively handling a situation when it arises. Along with this, we must correctly label and track peer-on-peer sexual assaults. By correctly labeling sexual assault as what it is, with the correct training, school staff is able to take the correct steps to solve the issue and lower the chances of a second offense. It is also crucial that we introduce the topic into schools much like we discuss bullying and kindness, we must discuss peer sexual harassment and safe environments. When the “It’s On Us” campaign was introduced to college campuses and universities by Obama and Biden it made a huge impact on the awareness of sexual harassment and changed how students responded to it. Since 2014 440,000 have pledged the “It’s On Us” campaign pledging to end on campus sexual assault.
We must start focusing on the safety and well being of students in terms of sexual assault. By requiring schools to educate both students and staff on how to handle peer-on-peer sexual assault, along with requiring schools to correctly identify and report sexual assault between students we do just that. These students are the future and we have an obligation to protect them.