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Special Coverage: Sexual Assault and Harassment

Trigger Warning: SA/SH

The coverage below focuses on sexual assault and sexual harassment, and because of the sensitive nature, they may trigger strong emotions in some students. Please reach out to MSJ counselors or a trusted adult if you or a student you know needs support.


 As a community, it is often easy to overlook certain issues until they directly affect us. This month, the Smoke Signal is covering the culture around and awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the MSJ community. This coverage aims to bring awareness to the issue, provide resources for the student body, and advocate for increased education.

Recently, many students from high schools around the Bay Area have been sharing their sexual assault and sexual harassment stories on social media. Sexual assault, as defined by the US Department of Justice, is “any nonconsensual sexual act … including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” Sexual harassment is defined by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) as “unwelcome sexual advances and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.”

Earlier this month, the Smoke Signal surveyed the student body to learn more about their perception and awareness of the topic. Personal stories will not be part of this coverage due to privacy rights and policies. By examining this issue with regard to its impact on our school community, we can bring greater understanding in order to foster change. 


Click the links below to jump directly to each part of the coverage.

Part 1: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Assault and Harassment

Statistics on Sexual Misconduct & Media Influence

Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment in Our Community

How Cases Are Currently Being Addressed

Part 2: Resources for Dealing with Sexual Assault and Harassment

Identifying Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

Preventing Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

Recovering from Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

How to support others

Current Educational Resources at MSJ

Local Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Support Organizations

24-Hour Crisis Hotlines

Part 3: Dismantling the Culture that Enables Perpetrators of Sexual Assault

Addressing the Culture of Victim Blaming

Consequences of the Trivialization of Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

What Our Community Can Do

Additional data collected from the Smoke Signal’s survey of 110 MSJ students


Part 1: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Assault and Harassment

By Staff Writers Kruthi Gollapudi, Maggie Lai, Nithika Valluri

Statistics on Sexual Misconduct & Media Influence

Sexual misconduct has always been a pressing issue, one that is often brought up but subsequently dismissed and normalized. In January, a survey of 1,000 women in the UK, conducted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), found that only 3% have not experienced sexual harassment in public, while 97% either have experienced it or did not respond (86% reported having experienced sexual harassment, and 11% chose not to respond.) The statistic spread like wildfire across social media. Within three months, TikTok posts of people detailing their sexual misconduct stories under “#97percent” accumulated more than 359.6 million views. The response to this number was appalling: rather than taking the news as an urgent reminder of how pervasive sexual assault and harassment is, many turned to attack the data’s validity. This is the unfortunate reality of the situation: too many people are oblivious to the trauma of those affected by sexual assault and harassment worldwide.  

In schools, this issue is exacerbated even further. According to the American Association of University Women, a non-profit founded in 1881 that focuses on “gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy,” nearly half of students in grades 7-12 and two-thirds of university students nationally report experiencing sexual harassment. However, this is a shocking statistic considering 79% of schools with grades 7-12 and 89% of colleges did not officially report any cases of sexual harassment and rape in 2016. 

Repressing the issue is not a solution — our community must be fully aware of how prevalent sexual misconduct is in order to combat it.

Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment in Our Community

The Smoke Signal collected more than 100 responses through our student survey via MSJ’s Facebook groups from April 30 to May 5. Of the students who filled out the Google Form, 18.2% were freshmen, 25.5% were sophomores, 34.5% were juniors, and 21.8% were seniors. According to the survey, 62.7% of students aren’t aware of sexual assault or harassment cases within the school community, and 67.3% of people wished there was a greater discourse regarding this topic. Clearly, students need more resources on sexual assault and harassment.

62.7% of students aren’t aware of sexual assault or harassment cases within the school community, and 67.3% of people wished there was a greater discourse regarding this topic.

64.5% of students surveyed were either not sure or are not aware of reports of sexual assault or harassment. However, 35.5% of students are aware of such reports.

The majority of students do not believe there is open discourse around sexual assault and harassment, with 53.7% of surveyed students rating discourse at a 1 or 2 in terms of openness. Out of this same survey group, 67.3% of surveyed students wished there was greater discourse regarding this topic in our school environment.

The first step in identifying what changes schools can make is to understand the magnitude of the issue and evaluate what is being done to bring about solutions.

According to the East Bay Times, a 2017 survey at Berkeley High School reported that 840 students anonymously responded that they had experienced “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures” at least once. This number compares to the fact that only 25 cases of sexual harassment were reported that year, according to the same article. Students who previously feared not being taken seriously, due to a culture that trivializes the severity of cases of sexual misconduct, are now being inspired by their peers who shared similar experiences on social media platforms.

Some laws do exist to protect students who do want to come forward, such as Title IX, which mandates schools to adopt procedures for students to report and address cases of sexual misconduct among other protections. Part of the issue though, is that many can often be unaware that they are actually victims of sexual misconduct. 

The majority of students do not believe there is open discourse around sexual assault and harassment, with 53.7% of surveyed students rating discourse at a 1 or 2 in terms of openness. Out of this same survey group, 67.3% of surveyed students wished there was greater discourse regarding this topic in our school environment.

To gain insight into how aware MSJ students are surrounding this issue, the Smoke Signal’s survey asked, “On a scale of 1-5, how aware do you think you are of the steps you can take to identify cases of sexual assault and harassment?” Only 12.7% of students voted 5, highlighting just how many students lack information on steps to take regarding sexual assault and harassment. When students aren’t equipped to identify cases of sexual misconduct when it happens to them, their cases will go unreported. 

On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being not very aware and 5 being very aware, 73.6% of surveyed students gave a rating of 1-3 for awareness of resources to help those affected by sexual assault and harassment.

How Cases Are Currently Being Addressed

Even when students do report cases though, protection is also not always a guarantee. In NBC’s investigation, “#MeTooLGHS: Investigating Sex Assault Accusations by Los Gatos High Students,” reporters reached out to 50 Bay Area districts to learn about the ways in which each district held the accused accountable. Their investigation found that “most [schools] … said if the misconduct happened off-campus, the situation is out of their hands.” 

Sheila Pott, mother to a Saratoga High School sophomore who took her own life after being sexually assaulted in 2012, described how damaging the lack of school disciplinary action was in her case. 

“It sent a strong message that ‘young women, don’t come forward if you’re assaulted because the case won’t be taken seriously and you’ll have to walk the halls with the people who assaulted you … And to the boys, it’s not going to be taken seriously. You might get a little slap on the hand,” Pott said.

Another major issue is that acts of sexual assault and harassment are commonly and incorrectly labeled as other offenses like bullying and hazing. Esther Warkov, founder of nonprofit organization Stop Sexual Assault in Schools and mother of a daughter attending a Seattle high school who was raped by a high school peer in 2012, said in an interview with the National Education Association, “Not only do the survivors’ emotional and psychological scars endure long after the attack, their social lives, education, and career dreams are shattered. For some, the trauma is insurmountable; gender-based harassment and sexual assault have driven an increasing number of adolescent students to suicide.” When acts of sexual assault are not treated as serious offenses and simply brushed under the rug, it minimizes the depth of the issue and worsens survivors’ trauma, making the healing process extremely difficult. 

From the dismissal of victims’ stories to the failure to share proper resources and information regarding the topic, schools and their students still have a lot of work to do to improve the discourse surrounding sexual assault and harassment, and they must start taking action now to change this. 

Below, the Smoke Signal looks further into the student body’s perception of sexual assault and harassment at MSJ, and what resources there are to help.


Part 2: Resources for Dealing with Sexual Assault and Harassment

By Staff Writers Naveed Shakoor, Tanisha Srivatsa, Helen Tian, & Jerry Yuan

All MSJ staff are designated as “mandatory reporters,” meaning they are required by the state to report instances of child abuse, including sexual assault and sexual harassment, defined by Planned Parenthood as the use of force or power imbalances to coerce someone into engaging in sexual activity without their consent.

In recent online interviews, MSJ counselors said, “Teachers, School Counselors, Administrators, as well as other campus staff are mandated reporters and will follow all necessary steps to report incidents to the appropriate authorities and agencies … Counselors are here to support all students.  If a report of sexual assault is made to a counselor or any adult on campus, we would connect the student with the Fremont Police Department to take a report. If a report of sexual harassment is made to a counselor or any adult on campus, we would connect the student with their administrator to make a formal report and an investigation will follow. Students who are still processing sexual assault or harassment can be referred to on-site counseling services through one of our partner agencies.” 

According to the California Department of Education on the subject of confidentiality, “Mandated reporters are required to give their names when making a report. However, the reporter’s identity is kept confidential. Reports of suspected child abuse are also confidential.”

Identifying Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

According to Planned Parenthood, sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior that happens without one’s consent. It comes in many different forms involving assault, harassment, and abuse. But, these different forms are all followed with similar signs of identification. Narika (a Fremont-based domestic violence advocacy nonprofit) Executive Director Bindu Oommen-Fernandes and Program Coordinator and Domestic Violence Advocate Himadri Gupta said identification is one of the most important factors in dissolving the notion of sexual misconduct. They teach their volunteers and audience  “to look out for certain signs such as [someone] becoming more isolated, covering up parts of their body to hide physical signs of injury, emotional distress, signs of anxiety and fear, change in appearance [or] self-esteem, denial of harassment and injuries, withdrawing from relationships, restricted transportation/outside activities, and more.”

Signs of sexual assault:

  • Covering parts of body to hide injury
  • Emotional distress
  • Signs of anxiety and fear
  • Change in appearance
  • Change in self-esteem
  • Denial of harassment and injuries
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Restriction from outside activities

Preventing Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

Anyone can be a victim of sexual misconduct. In fact, according to RAINN, one in six American women and one in 33 American men have been victims of attempted or completed sexual misconduct. In order to prevent sexual misconduct from occurring, the community should practice consent. Individuals can also learn self-defense skills, which can range from martial arts to just carrying pepper spray, which can be legally carried and used in 2.5 ounces or less containers for self-defense in CA. 

According to Narika, if one finds themselves faced with the threat of sexual assault, try to get to a safe place as soon as possible and reach out for help. Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE) Executive Director Jennifer Dow-Rowell agrees with this sentiment and said, “The person being abused or harassed should take whatever steps they feel safe taking. This could be talking to someone they trust, calling a hotline, or seeking help from law enforcement.  There is no one right answer, it’s what that person deems safe for them at the moment.”

Recovering from Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

Despite these steps, there are instances when  sexual misconduct does occur. According to RAINN, after experiencing sexual misconduct, it is important for survivors to explore different methods of dealing with their trauma, such as counseling, hobbies, exercise, and support groups. However, even with these provided and recommended strategies, unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse and self-harm, are prevalent among survivors. “This [is] a learning process, especially because sometimes people feel selfish when they prioritize self-care, but coping mechanisms and self-care are not selfish — rather, they’re absolutely necessary aspects of healing for survivors,” Oommen-Fernandes and Gupta said. 

Key takeaways according to Narika, RAINN, & SAVE: 

  • Prevention
    • Practice consent
    • Learn self defense skills
      • Martial arts
      • Pepper spray
    • When faced with threat
      • Get to a safe place as soon as possible
      • Call 911
      • Reach out to hotlines, the police, or friends
  • Recovery
    • Report the crime to
      • Trusted adult
      • Local police department
      • Medical center
    • Explore different healthy coping mechanisms
      • Counseling
      • Support groups
    • Focus on self-care
      • Hobbies
      • Exercise

How to Support Others

MSJ students can actively engage in advocacy against sexual assault and sexual harassment by educating themselves about these issues and supporting survivors. 

According to the MSJ counselors, students may not have the bandwidth to tackle these issues head-on by themselves, but they can still empathize, listen, believe, and support the survivor. Students can then point survivors toward resources such as counseling or domestic violence agencies.

In addition, Narika Executive Director Oommen-Fernandes said, “However, you shouldn’t play the rescuer or force what you think the survivor should do onto the person. At the end of the day, they know their situation best and it’s best to empower them to make whatever choice is best for them, while also letting them know you’re there to support the survivor.”

For more information on specific organizations that tackle sexual assault and harassment, read more below. 

For a more active way to participate in sexual assault prevention, students may also find volunteer opportunities at local domestic violence prevention organizations, such as the Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE). Most importantly, students should educate themselves about sexual assault and harassment through digital resources such as RAINN, which has in-depth articles addressing such topics as what consent looks like, and the role you can play in preventing sexual assault. 

How to help:

  • How to support survivors
    • Be patient, and be there to listen and offer your support
    • Provide resources (listed below) and offer to assist them in reaching out to counselors for help
  • What you can do
    • Volunteer opportunities at local domestic violence prevention organizations (Most opportunities available to those 16+)
      • SAVE
    • Educate yourself through online resources 
      • RAINN

Current Educational Resources at MSJ

MSJ has several available resources, both on and off-campus, for students to educate themselves about sexual assault and sexual harassment. As part of MSJ’s graduation requirement, all students take the Health class, where they learn about sexual misconduct in the Family Health unit. Health discussions largely center around the topic of consent, where students participate in active simulations and conversations to practice asking for consent and setting boundaries in relationships. “As a society, we tend to feel like we can guess other people’s intentions, instead of explicitly saying ‘This is what I want or don’t want’ …  and we have those discussions [in Health],” Ware-Hartbeck said.

In addition, in 2019, FUSD adopted Rights, Respect, Responsibility as the new comprehensive health, puberty, and sexuality curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students. The new curriculum focuses largely on defining healthy relationships and introducing the idea of consent for younger, more vulnerable students. MSJ also has several more specific organizations and resources available to students related to sexual assault and harassment. Students can find links to community organizations at FUSD’s Student Support Resources page, including love is respect, a teen hotline for youth to ask questions about relationships, and RAINN. In addition, counselors can also refer students to Care Solace, a district initiative that connects students to mental health support. 

For a more comprehensive list of community organizations and hotlines, read further. 

Resources at MSJ:

    • Learn about sexual misconduct in school
      • Health class
        • Family Health unit
      • Rights, Respect, Responsibility
  • Health, puberty, and sexuality curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students

Local Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Support Organizations 

San Francisco Women Against Rape

Founded by a group of female sexual assault survivors in 1937, San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) is committed to helping survivors and working to end rape. Following anti-racist feminist principles, SFWAR believes that sexual assault is used as a weapon of oppression against marginalized communities. To challenge these systems of oppression, its programs offer resources for survivors, including legal support and medical attention, and also seeks to promote advocacy against domestic violence and sexual assault in the Bay Area community. Every year, they recruit, train, and certify more than 40 volunteer sexual assault counselors who provide crisis line support, medical accompaniment, in-person peer counseling, and community outreach. 

Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments

Based in Fremont, Safe Alternatives To Violent Environments (SAVE) is a grassroots organization that provides resources, such as counseling, a 24-hour hotline, support groups, and a Safe House program, for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and works in conjunction with the Washington Hospital Healthcare System and the Despereaux Good Works Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation. SAVE also offers several youth services for Bay Area teenagers, including presentations on teen dating, Stronger Than You Think (a peer support group for students experiencing dating violence organized by MSJ and Irvington High School), and the Symbiosis Youth Summit, a day-long event where students can attend workshops on healthy relationships and dating violence prevention.

Bay Area Women Against Rape

Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR), established in 1971 as the nation’s first rape crisis center, is a community organization with the goal of providing counseling and advocacy for sexual assault and harassment survivors, as well as resources for community education on this topic. They offer three main types of groups — skills groups, support groups, and therapy groups — to offer an environment for sexual assault victims to cope with their trauma and participate in professional therapy sessions. They also offer services in Spanish, and all of their resources are accessible to any sexual assault survivor regardless of gender. 

Asian Americans for Community Involvement

After seeing the enormous cultural and linguistic barriers that immigrant families faced, Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) formed Asian Women’s Home (AWH) in 1986 in hopes of strengthening the resilience of a multicultural community when it comes to domestic violence and human trafficking. AWH provides services to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, such as a 24-hour support hotline, live online chat support, access to the San Jose Family Justice Center, emergency shelter, and support services. They offer services in multiple languages and dialects, both Asian and non-Asian, along with their ten-bed domestic violence shelter in Santa Clara County.

Narika

*Disclaimer, does not serve minors

Founded in 1992 by a group of immigrant women, Narika is a South Asian-led and Fremont-based domestic violence advocacy nonprofit with the goal of providing assistance for sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence survivors. In addition to running a confidential toll-free crisis hotline (see 24 Hour Crisis Hotlines), Narika provides crisis counseling, advocacy, court and medical accompaniments, safety planning, referrals, resources, and more. Narika has many support groups that offer “all survivors of abuse or violence a welcoming space where they can nurture a sense of community, foster self-care and mutual support, and receive grounding and self care techniques,” including the Self-Empowerment and Economic Development (SEED) and Heal, Enrichment & Access to Life (HEAL) Skills programs.

List of 24-Hour Crisis Hotlines

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673
  • National hotline
  • Information and referrals to shelters, support groups for women, and helps with restraining orders
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233) and for the hearing impaired, (800) 787-3224
  • National hotline
  • Spanish counselor available  
Highland General Hospital Sexual Assault Crisis Line: (510) 437-4688
  • Highland General Hospital, Oakland
  • Medical assistance, counseling, support services immediately after incident and any time thereafter
Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR): (510) 845-RAPE (7273)
  • Oakland
  • Counseling, support, referral services
A Safe Place: (510) 536-7233
  • Oakland
  • Emergency shelter, information and referral, legal advocacy
Building Futures with Women and Children: (866) 292-9688
  • San Leandro
  • Counseling, emergency shelter, information and referral, legal advocacy, safe houses, and transportation
Community United Against Violence Hotline: (415) 333-HELP and (415) 777-5500
  • San Francisco
  • Counseling, referrals, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, anti-Gay violence
Emergency Shelter Program, Inc. (ESP): (510) 786-1246 and (888) 339-7233
  • Hayward
  • Confidential housing, food, counseling, and advocacy
Hamilton Family Emergency Center Hotline: (415) 292-5228
  • San Francisco 
  • Counseling, emergency shelter, information and referral.
Narika: 1-800-215-7308
  • Berkeley
  • For South Asian Women. Information and referral.
The Riley Center: (415) 255-1065
  • San Francisco
  • Counseling, emergency shelter, information and referral, legal advocacy, temporary restraining order assistance, transportation
Shelter Against Violent Environments (SAVE) Hotline: (510) 794-6055
  • accepts collect calls
  • Fremont 
  • Counseling, emergency shelter, legal advocacy, information and referral, safe houses, temporary restraining order assistance, transportation
Tri-Valley Haven: (800) 884-8119 and (925) 449-5842
  • Livermore
  • Counseling, emergency shelter, information and referral, legal advocacy, temporary restraining order assistance, transportation
Women Organized to Make Abuse Non-Existent (W.O.M.A.N. Inc.): (415) 864-4722
  • San Francisco 
  • Counseling, information and referral, legal advocacy, temporary restraining order assistance. Includes services for lesbian and bisexual women.

 


Part 3: Dismantling the Culture that Enables Perpetrators of Sexual Assault

By Staff Writers Tavish Mohanti, Joanne Park, & Kruthi Gollapudi

It’s been 15 years since the #MeToo movement first took the world by storm, and cases of sexual assault and harassment are still underscoring how deeply-rooted these issues are in our society. As more data is unearthed, like 86% statistic published by UN Women, and more victims come forward to share their stories, it’s become evident that while sexual assault and harassment are often portrayed as isolated incidents. They are widespread, cultural issues stemming from victim-blaming, miseducation, and a flawed legal system.  

The reaction to the UN Women’s findings is telling, as many attempt to discredit and deny it. This conflict peaked with the trending #NotAllMen, a shortened version of the phrase “not all men are like that” that defends men from how they are typically described as the main perpetrators of rape accusations. Spreading the hashtag minimizes the widespread nature of sexual assault and harassment while shifting the blame to victims rather than perpetrators. 

Addressing the Culture of Victim Blaming

This staggering reaction is a direct manifestation of a larger cultural issue: reducing sexual assault to an individual victim’s issue rather than a systemic one. A 2010 study conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, with support from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, found that people “described sexual violence as the result of a … victim’s inability to ensure her or his safety.” Additionally, “Social context — and critically, inequity — didn’t enter the discussion.” Sexual assault and harassment is a consequence of the perpetrator’s inability to control themselves. Instead of recognizing this, many turn to blame victims as a result of a culture stemming from flaws in the education and legal system. It manifests itself in toxic societal practices, such as rape jokes, which feeds into the same vicious cycle of dismissing sexual misconduct. 

Jokes regarding sexual assault and harassment, often masqueraded as “dark humor,” trivialize these issues, leading to the delegitimization of victims’ stories. Though dubbed as harmless, such comments effectively normalize assault and harassment, reducing it to a mere punchline. When people become comfortable making and hearing these sort of jokes, their tendency to take sexual assault and harassment lightly increases. An article published in 2017 by Violence Against Women, a peer-reviewed journal centered around women’s studies, found that after being exposed to an environment with sexist humor, “sexist men feel freer to express their antagonism against women through subtle sexist acts as well as sexual violence.” This type of humor seems innocuous, but in fact creates a hostile environment for women and teaches men that such behavior is acceptable. Rape is not funny, and these dangerous comments undermine the seriousness of sexual abuse and perpetuate a culture of disrespecting, humiliating, and attacking victims. 

This type of humor is only one illustration of society’s tendency to undermine and downplay victims’ stories. Oftentimes, people blame the victims for the crime — pointing to the length of the victim’s skirt or the number of drinks they had that night as an excuse or as a show of consent — while the accused go free and face no repercussions. Phrases such as “boys will be boys” and “she was asking for it” further enforce the understanding that victims are the ones to blame in all cases of sexual assault and harassment, which is far from the truth.

Consequences of the Trivialization of Sexual Assault and Harassment

The trivialization of sexual assault and harassment and victim-blaming that society enables is not limited to social environments — its consequences can be seen in the legal world as well. From court records in a 2018 criminal trial in Ireland, a man was acquitted of rape after his lawyer cited the victim’s thong as a sign of consent: “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” Rather than reflecting on the systems that reinforce and perpetuate violent behavior, victims are used as scapegoats. 

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the online sex education platform O.school Andrea Barrica said, “As a kid, I was taught that men would try to get sex from me, and my job was to say no. When we teach girls that their job is to say no, it places the blame on us when we ‘fail’ — meaning we are less likely to report such violations. That internal shame is something predators count on.”

This willful ignorance cannot continue. In the UK study, 86% of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment publicly. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct can occur anywhere, to anyone, in any situation. Therefore, it is an issue that can only be prevented through changes in the systems and mindsets that preserve it. 

Oftentimes, students are told how to avoid being sexually assaulted instead of being taught how to avoid sexually assaulting someone. In a Harvard University survey of more than 3,000 high school students and young adults ages 18 to 25 nationwide, the overwhelming majority reported they had never been taught how to avoid sexually harassing others.

What Our Community Can Do

This gap indicates a desperate need for an expansive, well-funded curriculum on the causes, effects, and truths surrounding rape culture, including information on proper resources to report and learn about sexual assault. 

The California Healthy Youth Act requires that students in grades 7-12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school, but that is not enough. The required curriculum should start as early as third or fourth grade, and more funding should be properly allocated to educational resources on sexual health and awareness. Learning from a young age would help students navigate these issues as they move into high school. In addition to FUSD’s Family Health Unit in the current sexual educational curriculum that addresses sexual harassment and consent, a more comprehensive and long-term curriculum would help them understand the magnitude of sexual assault and the damage of insensitive jokes. 

Eliminating sexual assault and harassment on all levels starts with education. It begins with opening up platforms for constructive discussions and providing information on existing nonprofits, helplines, and support groups. These spaces will help end the cycle of victim-blaming and allow survivors to share their stories without fear of humiliation or attack. Only then can society tackle these systemic issues and create a safer world for future generations.


Additional data collected from the Smoke Signal’s survey of 110 MSJ students

Click on each image to view the data.


Cover image by Centerspread Editor Lily Oh

Data graphs by News Editor Alina Zeng, Centerspread Editor Amanda Pang, & A&E Editor Megh Basu

Interactive StoryMap by Web Editor Mahek Bhora

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