Sexual assault education: beyond the walls of GBN

Kobi Weinberg and Amber Olson, Managing Editor and Executive Features Editor

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Toby Klein said she was raped when she was 15.

Klein, who graduated last spring from Glenbrook North and is now a freshman at Indiana University, said that after recovering, she felt an obligation to speak out about sexual assault.

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Compiled by Lizzy Ring. Click to enlarge.

“After going through therapy and getting myself back on my feet, I realized how much still needs to be done,” said Klein. “I couldn’t sit by with this experience. I had the opportunity to make a change when this occurred to me.”

Sheena Paul, a Senator of the Associated Students of the University of California, represents the students within the Berkeley Student Cooperative. She said she personally works on issues of sexual violence and harassment.

“Unfortunately, sexual violence and harassment are systemic issues that impact our entire communities,” said Paul. “I work to ensure that survivors of sexual violence and harassment are able to access the support and equity they deserve.”

Paul said she defines sexual assault as “a violent act that violates an individual’s affirmative consent.”

According to Paul, affirmative consent is defined as “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.”

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Compiled by Ben Zhao. Click to enlarge

Klein, who has been a public speaker at numerous events concerning sexual assault and was recently quoted in The Atlantic on the topic, noted that the impact of assault can be seen on campuses nationwide.

“Thousands of people each year drop out of universities, guys included, due to sexual assault,” she said.

Klein emphasized the importance of education about sexual assault during high school years.

“Girls are most vulnerable from 15 to 24,” said Klein. “Roughly half that time is while they are in high school, and the fact that we declare the problem as a college problem rather than a high school problem is leaving all of these girls in the dark. It is a necessary topic to cover.”

Klein participates in several programs on campus to combat sexual assault.

“I’m involved in activities that deal with sexual assault simply because it is one of the biggest problems on campus,” said Klein. “At IU, it’s an absolute epidemic.”

IU did not respond to repeated requests for comments on this story.

Klein said some people do not recognize the devastating impact a sexual assault can have.

“It’s hard to believe that one person’s actions could change someone’s entire life for the worse,” said Klein. “We saw [this] with [GBN graduate] Lizzy Seeberg.”

It was widely reported that Lizzy Seeberg was allegedly assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. She committed suicide 10 days after reporting the incident.

Klein said the psychological damage from an attack can be significant and irreparable.

“This is not just, ‘Someone stole my bike lock,’” said Klein. “I can get a new bike lock. Someone can’t get back their innocence. Someone can’t get back their peace of mind.”

Mike English, a health instructor in the Physical Education department, said GBN does provide information on sexual assault as part of its sex education class taught during sophomore year.

English said the instruction on assault includes a community organization presentation and discussions about consent.

“We actually have an outside speaker come in from Northwest CASA, which is the Northwest Centers Against Sexual Assault,” English said.

The organization presents its Clothesline Project to students.

“People who have been victims of sexual assaults have written their stories on T-shirts, and the students walk around the gym in silence, just reading what happened to these different people,” English said.

English said the presentation is “very powerful” and that “students tend to take the activity seriously.”

The sexual assault curriculum includes a discussion of the “no means no” standard.

“It does not matter where you are,” said English, “If someone says ‘no,’ it stops right there. It is as simple as that. What I tell my class is, think of your mother, or your little sister, or your grandmother, and is that something you would want to have happen to them? I tell them to use that mentality when making decisions.”

English said there is some discussion in health class about assault victims.  

“If you are assaulted, you have to tell someone,” said English. “Because it is a crime, too, you would have to visit a hospital so that they can collect evidence, but you definitely have to talk to someone, and you have to know that it’s not your fault. Sometimes people feel guilty that it was something they did that caused this, and that can’t be further from the truth.”

Bob Pieper, instructional supervisor for P.E., said sophomore girls learn self-defense skills in their P.E. classes to help defend themselves in the case of attempted sexual assault.

Klein said that the sex education program should include additional information.

“No one was ever given strategies on what to do when assaulted,” said Klein. “Without knowing anything, a woman might shower after, before going to the hospital. My friends and I were never told about that. There was a recent graduate who told me that they were sexually assaulted and said no one ever told her not to shower or wash her hands, yet that’s where all the evidence lies.”

Klein also said students should be taught how to support victims.

“If you’re in a room of 20 girls, four or five of them are likely to be sexually assaulted or subject to attempted sexual assault,” said Klein. “No one told me how to support my friends when they came to me. I didn’t have the language when my friend came to me even though I was a survivor. It took me a while to figure out what to say.”

Klein said that given the alarming number of assaults, educating students about rape and other forms of sexual assault is important both to make them aware of the danger and to encourage victims to report the crime.

“When I go up and speak to groups, there are at least a few people that approach me to tell me their story,” said Klein. “These are people who usually would have never reported it because they think they are the only ones. When people think they are the only ones, they are not going to say something. That’s why we have such a big problem with underreporting. The parents might not want to hear it, but having a presentation in school might be the reason why their kid actually gets help.”

Pieper said the school’s sex education program is only a part of learning about sexual assault.

“I think that there are a lot of ways for kids to get educated, and you can’t just rely on the high school to teach you everything,” Pieper said.

According to Klein, it is critical to get information to students before they become victims.

“Some kids learn about sexual assault after it has already happened to them, and that’s really a really unfortunate part,” said Klein. “I was raped before the sophomore health curriculum.”

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Sexual assault education: beyond the walls of GBN