Posted by: Karen (Betty Bear) | March 21, 2013

Rape and education

So there has been quite a lot written recently about rape, rape culture, our response to rape, and so on. I found the whole Steubenville rape case appalling but, unfortunately, not that surprising. The response to it is a bit like the response to a mass shooting – shock and horror and how could this happen here and who’s to blame. The thing is, it does happen. It happens ALL THE TIME. And, to some extent, we are all to blame. We all, and I do mean all, need to make it very, very clear that rape is never acceptable. Not ever. But we also need to make it extremely clear what rape is. I found this teacher’s blog post amazingly thought provoking: Go here and read it. I’ll wait.

It’s not that these kids were planning on raping or even wanting to rape; it’s that they didn’t really know WHAT RAPE IS. I particularly liked the definition “that consent is (in the words of Dianna E. Anderson) an enthusiastic, unequivocal YES!” And if it isn’t an enthusiastic, unequivocal YES, that means it’s a no. And if she or he can’t say no, because they are drunk/drugged/handicapped/unconscious/etc. that means it’s a no. For any sexual contact at all. Everyone needs to know this – everyone.


There are things I dislike about my kid’s school, things that annoy me, things they aren’t doing particularly well, but there is one thing they are doing well. Sex ed. They have a program called Teen PEP. It is a program in which teens, juniors and seniors, are taught to lead workshops for middle school kids and the freshmen and sophomore classes on topics including, wait, I’m just going to copy and paste here:

Understanding Gender
Postponing Sexual Involvement
Human Reproduction
Pregnancy Prevention
Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections
Family Night (they invite their parents and do a workshop on talking to your kids about sex; it was fabulous!)
Understanding & Preventing HIV/AIDS
Alcohol, Other Drugs, & Sexual Decision-Making

The workshops they lead are called:

Let’s Wait Awhile: Postponing Sexual Involvement
Later, Baby: Pregnancy Prevention
Don’t Pass it On: Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections
Talk to Me: Family Night
Break the Silence: Understanding &Preventing HIV/AIDS
Sex on the Rocks: Alcohol, Other Drugs, & Sexual Decision- Making
Understanding Sexual Harassment
Homophobia Reduction
Preventing Dating Violence
Sexual Assault
Unwelcome Advances: Understanding Sexual Harassment
Bridges of Respect: Homophobia Reduction
Break the Cycle: Preventing Dating Violence
Power Play: Acquaintance Rape

The workshops are given during health class to ALL students unless their parents specifically opt them out. They focus not only on giving information but also on tools to use the information. Things like how do you say no to your boyfriend? How do you pass on alcohol or drugs when friends are pressuring you? What makes a relationship abusive?

My daughter applied to be one of the peer educators. She had to fill out an application including essays, get recommendations from teachers and adults outside of school, get interviewed by the teacher who leads the class and she was chosen. If she learned nothing else for her entire high school career, this class would be worth it. I wish all high schools had it.


  1. Thank you so much for the share. These conversations need had, starting now!

    • Your blog post was wonderful. As was the conversation with your students.

  2. Thanks for that link to the teacher’s blog. It makes me feel hopeful. And what your children’s school is doing in the sex ed arena is beyond progressive! So many other schools would not do it because of one or two vocal parents disagreeing with it.

    This definitely is a conversation that needs to be had, over and over, for teens AND adults, and maybe even pre-teens. Because apparently too many people in this country don’t know what rape is.

    Excellent post.

    • It certainly seems people don’t know. I guess that “rape” means a violent sexual assault by a stranger on a totally innocent victim to many, but obviously there is much, much more that is, in fact, rape.

  3. Wow I wish they’d had that when I was in school.

    • Oh me too, me too. If I’d felt more empowered and better able to stand up for myself I could have avoided several unpleasant encounters.

  4. What Diva said,

    and this
    ….. I could have avoided several unpleasant encounters.

    Uh, yeah.
    Like date rape.

    • oh, Julie, I didn’t know that. I’m so sorry.

    • Oh, honey. Read tonight’s post. And healing hugs.

  5. Thanks, Karen. Great post, and great link. I’m seriously envious of your kids’ school’s sex ed program. Our area is so conservative that we still have to fight the battle of whether or not sex ed should be taught at all.

    • I wish I could mandate this in every school in the country.

  6. […] is a follow-up to my last post – here – and I don’t really know how to say what I want to so I’m just going to put it […]

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