Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No More Silence About Consent

Have you seen these announcements by the Horizon Foundation?

How would you like $10,000 for a social change project? Pitch your big idea today. #hocomd buff.ly/2eURjrX 

The link takes you to information about the Changemaker Challenge. In short:

If you have a big idea to make Howard County better, pitch it! Tell us about your idea by September 8, 2017. If your idea is chosen, you will be invited to present it to a live audience on October 30, 2017. If you are one of three winners, we’ll help bring your idea to life — together with $10,000 in seed funding, and project consultation. 

When I saw the announcement, I immediately thought of a student-initiated petition I signed towards the end of the school year. Here it is.

From the language of the petition:

There needs to be a change! Sexual violence, rape, and sexual assault is not a joke! We need to educate people about rape culture, and explain all of the different types of sexual assault. "No means no" is not enough. Instead we need to be promoting a definition of what consent is. There needs to be an education where rape is defined. We need a place where people feel safe. Many people have different cultures and beliefs on what sexual assault/rape is, and instead we all need to be taught the same definition. There are many who are concerned about the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding relating to this topic. Sign this petition to promote a rape prevention education among HCPSS schools. Thanks so much for all the support, and feel free to share the link on social media and friends to spread the word! 

The students include a link to a consent-based K-12 program. Take a look.

I would love to see the creators of this petition make a pitch to the Horizon Foundation. Why? Well, as a part of a parent/student group that looked at the implications of our school dress code and how time and again it was implemented in a gender-biased manner, I have seen how desperately we need to address the underlying attitudes that contribute to rape culture within our schools.

When an article of clothing worn by a girl leads to assumptions that she's "distracting" or "asking for it" or that she's "a slut", the groundwork is clearly laid to blame the victim in cases of sexual harassment or assault. Her educational experience is valued less than the boys she is accused of distracting. A comprehensive K-12 consent-based curriculum would ensure that both students and adults address these assumptions and work on healthier, non-biased boundaries.

Much as we don't want to talk about it, sexual harassment and assault are going on among our young people. And, more often than not, it is the victim who is shamed/blamed. Some of this is actually occurring in our schools. If we don't give our children the knowledge and tools to lead healthier and safer lives, we are contributing to the perpetuation of the problem.

As the students mention in their petition, this curriculum is free. I suspect that educating the public as to why this is a necessary and good thing is where that $10,000.00 grant might come in. I know there are people who believe that anything even remotely concerning sex should be discussed only in the home. (As we know, there are some school board members who think one shouldn't utter the word "condom" in front of an eighteen-year old.)

Introducing a consent-based curriculum in the schools would involve educating adults in the community in order to win their support. I think this could be a tough sell, but I think it would be  worth it. So, students, whoever you are: don't give up on your petition. I think you have a chance of taking it to the next level.

Make a pitch! Deadline is September 8th.

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