By Natalie Delcorps
During the month of April, Mutual Ground came to Batavia High School to talk to the seniors about sexual abuse. Mutual Ground was at the school because of a new law called Erin’s Law. Erin’s Law is a state mandate that requires sexual assault prevention education to students in elementary to high school, but the Mutual Ground presentations implemented by Erin’s Law didn’t speak at all about what happened to Erin and that kind of confused me. I would have liked to hear more about why it began and how it is important for all grades to learn about sexual abuse. Nevertheless, they fully covered the topic of Sex Abuse, which was what they were trying to get across.
“What many people don’t understand is that sexual abuse isn’t a temporary issue; when someone has been abused, that abuse sticks with them for the rest of their life, creating disorders such as anorexia, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and so many more,” said senior Lindsay Langstaff. “If we can start teaching people from a young age the life-long effects of abuse, I think it can really make a difference in the lives of many and hopefully create a culture where everyone can feel safe.”
Because of this, seniors were excused out of one of their certain classes for a 90-minute presentation from Mutual Ground. In this 90-minute block of time, students followed along with a decision-making story about a girl getting raped and what she should do about the situation. An informative powerpoint was also presented with definitions and laws relating to sexual abuse. All of this was out of an entire class of educational time. At first, I had no idea what to expect from this presentation, but it put things into perspective. Listening to what they had to say made me think more about the dangers at college and how coercion can happen, and how I should avoid dangerous situations.
“Sex Abuse is a subject most people shy away from, so being taught in schools allows for everyone to be on the same footing in regards to knowledge and prevention,” said senior Phil DesJardins. “I feel strongly that this is something that everyone should be taught as many people may get completely different answers to these situations based on the beliefs of those teaching them. A neutral institution such as the school system can provide a slightly less biased education.”
One of the biggest points Mutual Ground was getting across was to get consent from your partner, whoever they may be. They stress that you should respect and communicate with your partner. During my class, it was a bit tense at times because some males were offended that the people weren’t focusing enough on males being the victims.
“I do know that they broadened a lot of peoples view on what abuse can be. It’s not always a guy in a ski-mask ripping off a girls dress, a lot of subtle manipulation and coercion can happen, even in a relationship, that can end in sexual abuse,” said senior Gabby Englin. “I think they should have talked more about how men can be abused too. And the emotional trauma involved in sexual abuse on the part of women who report it. Because I know that in our presentation the guys ended up feeling that they were always the bad guys and that a woman could make up any story about them that they want.”
I see the point in this presentation because too many people are sexually abused, especially at a young age. But I feel like it’s also the parents’ job to talk with their kids about this. Parents talking with their children allows them to be more open with each other, so if something horrific happens, the kids will be more comfortable asking for help when it is necessary. The presentation was uncomfortable for me, but I hope more people were informed about sexual abuse from this.
“I think that they have the right idea by starting the presentations off when kids are young and continuing on through high school,” said senior Tessa Day. “I think it’s important that by the time kids get to be 17 or 18 that they have all of this knowledge so they know how to prevent themselves from either being abused or abusing others and so they know what to do in case this happens to them.”