A plea to all-girls schools: Let’s change culture

Content warning: sexual assault.

I sat at a sticky dining room table eating Commella’s with my friends the summer going into junior year. “She was kinda asking for it…” a boy said, looking down at his hands as if he knew the atrocity of his comment.

I watched my friends sit in silence, struggling with what to say. In a gross attempt to ameliorate the awkwardness, a Dana Hall girl chimed in, “Yeah. I guess.” 

One in five women in just the United States will report some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, although it is expected that 77% of cases aren’t reported. There are 464 students at Dana Hall. Statistically speaking, this means that 93 girls currently at this school will report an incident of sexual assault in their lifetime and that even more will experience but not report it.

Given this staggering number, we must institute widespread support for victims of sexual assault at Dana Hall. As a school committed to preparing women who will be ready to face challenges they will encounter in the world, is it not our responsibility to also help girls cope with the sad realities of sexual violence? 

Giving victims a support system is the first step to shifting rape culture within our institution, our communities, and society. Sexual abuse, violence, and misogyny are normalized when awareness isn’t brought to these topics. A support system could include a group of girls coming together, with the support of counselors and teachers, to address these issues. We could also makes changes in our community by volunteering at organizations that support women. This support is needed. We need to change the rhetoric, both at Dana Hall and in our other communities, around sexual violence and abusive relationships, so victims feel comfortable coming forward and asking for help.

Awareness without action is meaningless. Whether that be attending protests and community discussions, advocating for proper consent education, or contacting influential community members for greater protection for victims of sexual violence, Dana Hall must take initiative. 

I recently went to a summit on sexual assault in hopes of educating myself more on the issue in preparation to lead Peer Education. As I lay in my bed the night it ended, exhausted from two days of Zooming, I thought back to the boy who said the girl was asking for it. I began to sob. After listening to survivors detail their experiences in excruciating detail, their bodies physically recoiling from having to share those memories, I knew that I would never be able to look at the boy the same way. Victim-blaming is not only incredibly harmful to the victim, but it manifests rape culture. Talking about sexual assault is uncomfortable and scary, but as long as we reject vulnerability in hopes of comforting ourselves, violence against women will not stop. Victim-blaming encourages women to stay silent for fear of being judged and seen at fault. We must look victims in the eyes and tell them, “It is not your fault. You are not broken. You did not ask for this. We hear you.”   

My goal is to ensure that Dana Hall girls are not the women who feel the need to agree with people who demean and blame victims to simply fill the silence. We should be girls who hold perpetrators accountable by cultivating conversation and change. Girls who are able to sit at those sticky dining room tables and say, “No, she wasn’t asking for it.”

Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. 

Comments are closed.