In 2016, during the presidential campaign, a major scandal was uncovered when a leaked recording alleged that then-candidate Donald Trump had bragged about violating women without their consent. At the time, many were sure that the scandal would end his run to the White House. That didn't happen, of course, and now another high-profile businessman's history of alleged assault has come to light. After news broke last week that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had been accused of allegedly sexually assaulting numerous women, the question of whether we need to be teaching our kids about rape in schools is more prominent than ever, because the importance of fully understanding consent cannot be understated.
Romper has reached out to The Weinstein Company and Weinstein's legal representation for a comment on these allegations, but has not heard back at this time.
Last week, The New York Times released an investigation chronicling several reports of alleged sexual misconduct by Weinstein, and since then, more accusers have come forward. And while many details of Weinstein's alleged misconduct are still unraveling, Weinstein did make a statement the day the report was published, telling The New York Times:
I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.
Despite the intricacies and depth of these allegations, there is one universal truth at the center of it all, and that is this: children and young adults need to be taught what sexual assault is, just like they're taught so many other things in school.
Truly, as Twitter user @ideallyB pointed out, health class for today's American children often involves a lengthy unit on drug use and addiction, as well as many other important factors. But there's usually not a whole lot of information out there about sexual assault to help children understand what it means.
In 2016, NPR reported that "Close to 100 elementary and secondary schools are now being investigated for their alleged mishandling of sexual assault allegations." And while it's clear that sexual assault and rape is a hugely important issue throughout the United States, it's still something that isn't discussed very often, especially and understandably among impressionable children.
But, where is the line when it comes to discussing rape with children? Kate Rohdenburg, who heads the group, WISE in Vermont and New Hampshire, an advocacy group focused on preventing gendered violence, told NPR that it's actually possible to start explaining consent to children as young as age 5. She explained to NPR the basic principles of teaching boundaries and autonomy to children and how it could prevent sexual assault later in life:
We talk about who here likes hugs, and some kids raise their hand and some don't. Well, how are we supposed to know if this person wants a hug when they're feeling sad or not? And kindergartners will tell you that you should ask them.
With that in mind, schools could be taking on this tricky subject fairly easily. In fact, in Texas, House Bill 1342 has been passed in the House and the Senate and when signed into law, it will make sure students "learn what constitutes an unwanted advance and how to report it, beginning at age 5," according to Mic. Rape culture is simply too prominent in the United States, and the only way to prevent it from growing is to target it at one of its sources: teachable minds.
Schools all across the nation spend countless resources teaching children plenty of valuable lessons, but often ignore a fairly simple concept to instruct that could end up saving so many lives down the road. According to Rape Response Services, "Rape victims are four times more likely to have contemplated suicide after the rape than non-crime victims, and 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to have attempted suicide."
Implementing a strategic curriculum targeting the meaning of consent, sexual assault, rape, and how to prevent it would be a much-needed intervention in changing this dangerous culture in the United States. After all, knowledge is power.