Searing. That was the subject line of an email I recently sent to Brian Doyle, the editor of Portland, the remarkable magazine that Brian edits for the University of Portland. I had just finished reading an article in Portland magazine. Written by Dr. Paul Myers, Director of UP's Health and Counseling Center, the article offers an unblinking and angry and eloquent critique of "rape culture" in American colleges. Dr. Myers reminds us that we all have a stake in this discussion. In fact, the stakes could hardly be higher, as the bodies and minds and spirits of our sons and daughters, are at risk—and the statistics are startling and stark and demand a response.
Yet, until recently, we have been reluctant to talk about sexual assault and rape, especially when it involves young people. As parents and educators, we would prefer to avoid the subject. Too ugly. Too painful. Perhaps too close to home. So we JUST DON'T TALK ABOUT IT!
The entirety of my email exchange with Brian went like this:
I just finished reading the article on sexual assault in your most recent edition of Portland. It enraged me and made me weep—as an educator and principal of a school of 1280 sacred young people, but also as a husband, brother to five sisters, and father of a high school senior girl.
I am hoping for permission to share the article with the JHS community. It is such a powerful piece; I really believe it will have an impact. On Thursday, March 4, Officers Dan Cotton and Kelly Godinet of the Beaverton PD addressed our students in gender-specific assemblies on the laws governing sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact.
The sessions were framed with powerful prayers by members of our Campus Ministry team. Students reflected on and discussed the sessions in classes later last Thursday. This article would make a sobering follow-up and give parents a way into difficult but crucial conversations with their kids.
Thanks for considering. If there is appropriate compensation, let me know.
O heavens yes. I'll send the pdf. Share it widely and with anyone in any venue anywhere. It's the best most furious passionate thing I think has ever been published in a university magazine and I would like 300 million people to read it. Share it on listservs and conferences and whatever you want.
No compensation. This one's sin and crime. This one is us fighting evil together. B
Why should a high school be fighting "rape culture"? Isn't this really a problem for our nation's colleges? The first page of Dr. Myers' article contains these frightening, atrocious facts: "Most rapes are inflicted on children under the age of 18. The second-most rapes are inflicted upon girls and young women from ages 18 to 26."
So, as you head off on spring break, I ask you to read this article. Most high schoolers spend spring break enjoying innocent fun with their families, but even then, pop culture can seep in to insinuate that spring break is really a time for intoxication and promiscuous sexual activity. Yes, Jesuit is a safe place with caring adults on the alert—but our students are still susceptible to the lessons of "Superbad" (in our day, it was "Risky Business"). When they are off campus, some students will follow the slippery road from curiosity to intoxication to unwanted and destructive sexual encounters. As parents and educators, we must work together to combat this evil.
I am sending Dr. Myers' article to all of our students. After Officers Godinet and Cotton's presentations, our students asked for tools to prevent sexual assault. We are in early discussions with Dr. Myers and Kristina Houck at UP about beginning a "Green Dot" sexual-assault prevention program at Jesuit. You will understand a bit more about Green Dot from the article, attached here as a pdf ("No More").
Thanks for reading. If you find the article compelling, send it to your friends, especially fellow parents, and anyone else who may join this cause.
Thanks for having the courage to enter into these tough but absolutely vital conversations with your child(ren). Special thanks to UP, to Brian Doyle and Laurie Kelley and especially Dr. Paul Myers, for pulling the scales from our eyes when it comes to this most difficult of subjects, sexual assault and rape among young people. O heavens, no. NO. NO MORE.
on Thursday March 19 at 10:46AM