EDITORIAL:Prevention must begin with children
Sexual violence education needs to address more than rape
A recent Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) Town Hall was focused on sexual violence and education. Four panelists, who are leaders in Rutgers’ sexual violence education and support community, were brought in to discuss the issues on how to mitigate the occurrence of sexual assault. Brady Root, the prevention education coordinator at the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, in an interview with The Daily Targum that the ultimate goal of her office is to eradicate sexual violence before it occurs.
The idea of addressing sexual assault in a preventative manner seems to be the most reasonable way to go about solving the issue. Unfortunately, in many cases the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when they hear of the occurrence of a rape or sexual assault is something like, “How much did the victim have to drink?” or, “What was the victim wearing?” These sorts of questions seem to be implicit in the minds of many, and are dangerous when it comes to effective prevention and ultimately solving the issue.
The first questions that come to one’s mind with regard to the occurrence of a sexual assault should not be about the actions of the victim, but rather the actions of the perpetrator. When it comes to actually solving the issue, we should be significantly more concerned with correcting the behavior of potential perpetrators before the incident occurs. To attempt to prevent these sorts of crimes by telling potential victims not to dress a certain way or behave a certain way would be like prescribing a band-aid when the most effective treatment would be surgery. And in this case, we must essentially perform surgery on the fundamental values of our nation’s children.
Prevention must begin with children. It is not far-fetched to say that the experiences and ideas children are exposed to early on can shape them into the people they will be in the future. So when a certain idea, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is perpetuated within the mind of a person from childhood into adulthood, that idea will become implicit. This is why it is imperative for people to be educated with regard to this matter beginning very early on.
Most people would likely see rape as an obviously horrific act, but many who acknowledge that fact may still be prone to behave unacceptably in sexual situations. This is because the line with regard to what is acceptable or unacceptable sexual behavior is not made clear enough in early childhood education. Rape is one aspect of sexual violence, but the issue any form of unwanted, unwelcome, forceful or coercive sexual contact and to many people, even unsolicited flirting and catcalling are examples of unacceptable sexual behaviors. All of the aforementioned behaviors stem clearly from power, control and entitlement. In that sense, if we are to truly eradicate sexual violence one day, children must be educated thoroughly with regard to the proper conception of power, control and entitlement in terms of sexuality, and how to identify and correct those potential feelings within themselves. This would be the true and effective way of preventative sexual violence education — education that focuses on implicit reactions.
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