So yesterday I went into Stevenson High School to do a presentation on sexual assault for 55 peer leader teens. These teens were amazing and engaged. Great listeners, asked good questions, had really interesting things to say. Plus, they now all have the number to RAINN (1-800-656-HOPE) plugged in their cell phones so if the 90 minutes that I talked didn't cover it, then hopefully they can talk to others if they need it.
Below are the highlights from the presentation:
1. These teens don't really use FaceBook anymore. I've suspected this was coming and have heard rumblings, but there you go. It's possible this is a regional thing, but I feel much better about my general ennui re: FB. So I guess I'll just keeping posting videos of Butter singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and that's good enough. And as for all the other social media...eh, maybe I'll just keep my ancient blog and my Twitter account and call it a day.
2. Affirmative consent and "yes means yes" was a pretty new concept to these teens. We need to be better about this. A lot of issues could be solved if we educated people about getting a solid yes right before engaging in sexual activity. It's not difficult and it also helps people figure out boundaries and what they want. Lots of colleges are now making this part of their codes of conduct. Learn more here. (Side bar: it also would be helpful if every teenager knew the legal definition of rape.)
3. "Hate me now, thank me later". One of the groups yesterday said this and I loved it because it dealt with the issue of willingness to be unpopular in order to prevent problems. This could cover so many things, not just sexual assault. We talked a lot about Steubenville (though none of them had heard of the case) and how bystanders from 3 different parties had witnessed that happening and no one was willing to step in and stop it.
4. Having an adult who could help. I particularly was impressed with these teens understanding that there are times when they can't do anything and at that point, they need to find a trusted adult. In YA books, we frequently make adults disappear from the picture, but the reality is that they are still very much a part of teens lives. We even discussed having a "no questions asked" adult who you could call if things were uncomfortable.
5. Empathy and compassion. These teens were really incredible and empathetic to the survivors' stories I told. None of them disengaged. They all seemed to want to do something about this issue. I'm always worried about hitting teens with too much, overwhelming them to the point where they can no longer care, but honestly, they all seemed to be right there with me the whole time.
6. Glee. Yeah, so that reference went right over their heads. And High School Musical (which I was joking about) was definitely not on their radar. (I do know that HSM is for young children--give me some credit). The point is that there's just no way to keep up with all of this different media (what the heck is Project X?) so the best thing is to listen and ask questions.
Overall, it was a great presentation. Lots of good stuff came out of it. I could've talked for 2 more hours, but that's usually the case with me. And full disclosure: I did say the "sh--" word four times so there's a chance I'll never be asked back. Though I hope for the best.
Thank you, Stevenson High Peer Leaders. You all are incredible and I'm super proud of the work you're doing.