Our nation’s youth are watching. While Americans are focused on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, our students are watching how our society addresses sexual violence, the way we treat survivors, and how those who commit such crimes are held to account.
Nearly 1 in 3 women will survive sexual assault or violence in their lifetime. Many of those women will not report their assault for fear of shame, not being believed or being revictimized. In our schools, this is compounded by the undermining of Title IX protections by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, which makes it more difficult for students who survive sexual assault to report it and receive the support they need.
As educators, how do we show our commitment to protecting our students and upholding the promise of justice for all survivors, especially young women and girls?
Here are four things you can do to support students and create safe environments, schools and communities:
Be Ready: National attention to incidents of sexual assault may surface memories for friends, colleagues and students. NPR: How to Talk to Young People about the Kavanaugh Story
Create a Safe and Affirming Culture at your School: Visit NEAEdJustice.org for resources on how to achieve Educational Equity for Women and Girls and to pass policies Protecting Students’ Civil Rights.
Practice Self-Care: With the volume of women and men coming forward to tell their stories in the news, social media and in your own lives, it’s important to take time to breathe and reflect away from the news. Try these five-minute meditations to help you center yourself when dealing with stress.
Let’s stand up for our students, especially those who survived sexual assault, and show them that our classrooms, schools and communities are no place for shame, guilt, embarrassment or stigma. They most certainly are watching, so let’s make sure they know that we will believe them.
Photo by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, via Wikimedia Commons