In the wake of a recent suicide of a local teacher following an investigation of sexual exploitation of a minor (as reported by the BDN), the community of Bangor is reeling. As details unfold, parents and concerned adults have many questions about how to keep the children and teens in their lives safe from harm.
While there is no panacea to protecting children and teens, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
For some, the coverage of what’s happening in our community may be especially difficult. Agencies like Rape Response Services andother sexual assault support centers in Maine are available if you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or assault, if you have questions, or if you just want to talk about how the events of the last week have affected you.
Our community will face difficult conversations in the coming days, weeks, and months, but we have the resources and ability to respond with awareness and compassion.
If you or someone you know would like to talk to a sexual assault support advocate, please call 1-800-871-7741 [Maine only].
(Trigger Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual violence.)
There’s no right or wrong way to respond to a sexual assault.
The way you respond is influenced by a number of social and individual forces, all of which are reasonable and appropriate.
But sometimes when someone experiences a sexual assault, it’s hard to decide what to do next. It can be difficult to know which move is the right one for you, which step feels like the right step to take.
Sometimes people feel disorganized or confused, making it hard to prioritize a list of needs and steps forward.
So, in order to help in that regard, here are five things to keep in mind as you navigate the future after a sexual assault.
Safety is key.
Healing cannot take place – and the trauma that you experienced cannot truly end – without feeling a sense of physical safety.
If you have been sexually assaulted recently, one of the most important initial considerations is your own physical safety.
Are you in a position where an assault is likely occur again? Of course, it’s not up to you to prevent your own assault – that is only the responsibility of the perpetrator. The relieving and critical peace of mind that comes along with a diminished risk is within your power, though!
For example, if the person who hurt you is a live-in partner, is there a friend or family member who would let you crash with them for a bit? Or if the perpetrator has a key to your apartment, is there a way for you to change the locks?
Safety should never be the responsibility of a survivor. We should live in a world where sexual violence does not exist and where everyone is safe because people who want to commit crimes have learned other ways to control those urges.
But unfortunately, we don’t.
I would never, ever suggest that someone change their behavior to prevent their own experience of violence – because that simply isn’t possible. But I do believe that it’s important for someone to take whichever steps they think are necessary in order to help them feel as safe as humanly possible.
That feeling of safety – of being out of immediate danger, of experiencing a sense of autonomous security – is key to healing from sexual assault.
The reality is that healing from sexual violence must take place within the context of healing and emotionally safe relationships – whether platonic, familial, or romantic.
Holding the secret of survivorship doesn’t work. It’s lonely, it’s isolating, and it can even feel like your head is a toxic space, rather than the safe and loving mental space that we all deserve to inhabit.
The act of relating to another human can, in itself, be curative. The act of verbalizing the nature of the trauma to someone who you trust can be amazingly relieving. And the act of being heard, respected, and validated is nothing short of therapeutic.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be a person in your life with whom you can safely share the truth of your experience of sexual assault. This person may be a best friend, a partner, a community member, or someone in your family.
The choice of who (or if!) to tell is completely yours.
As you’re deciding who might be a trusted and safe person, here are some factors to keep in mind:
Will they judge you? Will they know, unequivocally, that it was not your fault? Will they know not to question any part of your experience?
Will they be able and willing to respect your privacy? Are they a trustworthy person who will respect your wishes around who (and under which circumstances) you would like to know about your assault?
Will they be willing and able to respect your autonomy? You have a lot of choices that you will be making in the upcoming days, weeks, and months after your assault. Many of these choices relate to reporting, seeking medical care, and talking to professionals. Will this person respect that your decisions are yours and yours alone? Will they honor whatever you choose?
Will they be on your side 100%? To choose neutrality is to choose the perpetrator – and that shit just can’t happen.
Remember that the decision to share your truth with another person is just that – your decision.But if it feels safe to do so, it might just be healing.
You have survived something awful. You experienced a trauma that no one should ever have to experience. And you came out alive.
That is remarkable. You, dear human, are remarkable.
You deserve to take care of yourself in the best way you know how. You deserve to nurse all of the battle wounds you incurred during your assault.
There are parts of you that are going to feel confused and fearful and sad. You may also feel anger or joy or fraudulence or numbness – or a million different combinations of a million different emotions.
Every single emotion and every single combination of emotions is completely and totally normal. You are normal.
You deserve to treat yourself kindly in the midst of the complex emotional experience that you may be having right now.
What does self-care look like for you?
Does it mean a day at the spa, a yoga class, a night out or in with a friend? Does it mean cooking a nutritious dinner or ordering a pizza? Does self-care mean creating a ritual that allows you space to breathe? Or does it mean a one-time special treat for yourself?
Whatever self-care means to you, now is the time to practice it. You are going through a lot right now, and you deserve kindness from yourself.
After being sexually assaulted, you have a number of choices to make related to the types of services you would like to access.
You have the option of reporting the assault to the police, pursuing a court case, and/or seeking medical attention or undergoing a forensic exam for evidence collection. You also have the option of reaching out to an advocate or therapist for emotional support.
These choices are deeply personal and each individual will make a different decision based on any number of factors.
Issues of identity play a huge role in the way a sexual assault is perceived by law enforcement and medical professionals, unfortunately. And there is rarely justice for survivors of sexual assault, even when the survivor fits into what we deem “worthy” or “acceptable.” So justice happens even less frequently when the survivor is a man, is a person of color, is trans, is a sex worker – the list goes on.
Depending on your individual circumstances, reporting an assault may or may not be the right thing to do. And unfortunately, a lot of people will have an opinion on this that they will want you to know.
Ask yourself: Do I want to report this crime or undergo a forensic exam or involve any professionals at all?
And listen to the answer that your heart provides. Everyone else can (and will) deal with your decisions.
If you do wish to report the assault and seek medical care, calling your local rape crisis centeris a good place to start. Likewise, if you are interested in seeking advocacy or therapy, your rape crisis center should have resources for you.
You deserve to take the time and space necessary to heal.
If you are in school or at work, I hope you will feel empowered and deserving of time off. You are entitled to a vacation, and you are entitled to an extension on that paper or exam.
It is strong and brave to ask for what you need and deserve. You deserve accommodations so that you can begin the work of healing. You deserve to prioritize your own wellness and elevate your emotional and physical health above all else.
It’s important to keep in mind that you do not owe anyone an explanation. You do not have to disclose your sexual assault to anyone, even when you are asking for accommodations.
Your request can be as simple as “I’ve had an unexpected personal matter arise, and I need time to attend to that.” Or you can tell the full story of your assault if it feels safe to do so. Just remember that you are not obligated to disclose.
That paper that’s due next week? While I’m certain that it’s important, I’m also certain that it’snot more important than your own need for sleep, healthful meals, exercise, and relationships – all things that may take additional energy or effort after an assault.
You will likely need to make choices about what you can feasibly do. And there is a lot of privilege inherent in these choices.
If it’s at all possible, I would gently encourage you to ask for the time and space you need to elevate your own healing. If you are fortunate enough to work a job that has paid vacation time, it may make sense to take a few of those days. If you don’t have paid time off, but can afford to miss a day or two of pay, remember that your own healing is worth the cost.
And if you aren’t able to take time off of work or school, allow yourself to take time off of other areas in your life. Maybe you won’t be able to attend Sunday night dinner with your family – and that’s okay. Maybe you won’t be able to drive a friend to the airport – and that’s okay.
Feel entitled to whatever accommodations you need in order to support your own healing. You deserve it.
As you move forward in your healing journey, remember to treat yourself with the same loving kindness that I am certain you would dole out effortlessly to the people around you.
You deserve nothing less.
Children from the age of 11 are to be taught about sexual consent under new government plans.
The government said it wanted to give young people a “better understanding of the society around them” so they could “make informed choices and stay safe”.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said there were “unimaginable pressures” for young people growing up.
The lessons are planned for mixed and single-sex state and independent schools in every part of England.
The plans are being drawn up by the Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) Association, an organisation set up in 2006 to oversee PSHE teaching.
The introduction to the draft document, which is due to be launched this year, says young people should be taught about consent before they are sexually active.
It says learning about healthy relationships is “crucial” to keeping those under the age of 16 who are sexually active “healthy and safe from abuse and exploitation”.
The document added that “recognising that some young people will be sexually active before the age of 16 does not equate to encouraging underage sexual activity”.
Speaking on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News, Mrs Morgan said it was right to explore issues around consent “in an age-appropriate way”.
She said: “We’ve seen this week with the issues about child sexual exploitation that growing up today is difficult and I think there are unimaginable pressures – compared to when I was growing up – on young people, particularly on girls.
“And I do think it’s right, again in an age-appropriate way, that issues around consent, when consent is given, when it is not given, when something goes way beyond the boundaries, who do you report to, it is important. And I know schools want to have the confidence and the tools to teach that well.”
A DfE spokesman said “good PSHE teaching” gave young people a better understanding of the society around them and supported them to “make informed choices and stay safe”.
They added: “We are ensuring teachers have high-quality resources and appropriate support and guidance so they can tackle the issues facing young people today.
“We will also raise the status of PSHE to recognise those schools which are already providing pupils with a well-rounded curriculum and ensure all parents can be confident their child’s school is providing a curriculum for life.”
However, while the PSHE Association welcomed Mrs Morgan highlighting its plans, it said it was “deeply disappointed” the government had not responded to an Education Select Committee recommendation to make PSHE a statutory part of the curriculum.
Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said: “Without this change, topics like consent will continue to be squeezed from school timetables and taught by untrained teachers.
“Given that five recent child sexual exploitation inquiries have all highlighted the need for schools to teach pupils how to keep themselves and others safe, the inadequacy of government action on this area is surprising and deeply disappointing.”
The Franklin County Rural Educator/Advocate will provide advocacy services and the school based education programs of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services in the more outlying areas of Franklin County. Responsibilities include identifying and developing partnerships with community resources in rural Franklin County in order to locate services in those areas, providing school based prevention education programming in the schools of rural Franklin County, and providing direct services and support to people affected by sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, stalking or sex trafficking. This is a new position and will also involve some program development and outreach activities.
Full time. Annual salary.
Qualifications include awareness and sensitivity to issues of sexual victimization, strong communication and interpersonal skills, experience with public speaking and/or education presentations/teaching, ability to work independently, successful program development experience. Reliable transportation required. Some night/weekend/holiday helpline coverage required. To apply, submit cover letter, resume and 3 references by mail (P.O. Box 6, Auburn, ME 04212-0006) or email to email@example.com. Applications must be received no later than Monday, March 23.
Bachelor’s degree in related field and/or equivalent life or work experience.
paid vacation, paid sick time, health insurance for employee paid by agency and available for dependents paid by employee, dental insurance available (paid by employee), 403 (b) retirement plan.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services
P.O. Box 6
Auburn, Maine 04212
There are some essential life skills that high schools know they have to teach students. That’s why most offer classes like woodshop, home economics and drivers education. So I have to ask: Given that we’re keen to teach teenagers the basics they need to function in society, why do we still have no mandated education around rape?
Expecting high schoolers to fully grasp what sexual assault is without comprehensive education is ridiculous. Politicians still routinely demonstrate their ignorance around rape, the FBI only changed its outdated definition of sexual assault in 2011, and even the courts regularly muck up rape cases.
And while it’s wonderful that more and more universities are creating sexual assault orientations and mandating courses on consent, by the time young people reach college (assuming they go at all) it’s often too late. Nearly half of American teenagers are sexually active by the time they’re 17 years old and 44% of sexual assault victims are under 18 years old.
Earlier this month, Senators Claire McCaskill and Tim Kaine introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act, which would mandate sexual assault and violence prevention education in high school. But we need more than a guarantee that rape will be talked about – we need a national standard for how it’s discussed. Victim-blaming, confusion around what the definition of rape is, and terrible ideas about how to stop assault all show that there’s too much misinformation around sexual assault.
We can’t have abstinence-only education enthusiasts teaching the topic, for example. Rape victims – including kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart – have said that receiving abstinence only education worsened their feelings of shame after being assaulted. (Curricula frequently teaches that young women are ‘dirty’ or ‘used’ after sex.) Some of the curricula even directly blames victims: In one popular textbook, for example, students are asked, “How do some people say NO with their words, but YES with their actions or clothing?
Considering the full-on backlash to ‘yes means yes’ laws and standards at universities, I don’t expect that a push to mandate similar education at the high school level would be met without opposition. But rape is not a talking point or a thought experiment. And now is the time – when ending sexual assault is a central part of the national conversation – that activists and legislators should be pushing for the most progressive, results oriented curricula possible for teens.
Young people need a clear understanding of what sexual assault is through a curriculum devised by experts, a comprehensive explanation of enthusiastic consent, and a roadmap for how to deal with a culture that victim-blames and is generally decades behind where it should be.
If most states require sex education for teens, and we continue the fight for medically accurate, non-religiously based sex education – we can certainly do the same for education on rape. If we can manage to have nearly every state pass an anti-bullying law and mandate education on the topic, we surely can gather up the same kind of support to end sexual assault and raise awareness. The question isn’t one of ability, but of will. Yes, it will be controversial and it will be an uphill battle. But if we want to truly stop rape before it happens and arm young people with the knowledge they need to deal with the reality of sexual assault – this is our only option.
It was Andrew’s sixth night of freshman year at Brown University when he was assaulted by a male student in his dorm bathroom. When Andrew brought on-campus charges, his assailant was expelled.
Unlike myriad students who report mishandled cases in the burgeoning national campaign against sexual assault, Andrew initially believed his case was handled appropriately.
But after The Huffington Post discovered Andrew’s assailant had previously been found responsible for assaulting two other students and had not been expelled, Andrew was devastated.
Andrew has decided to share his story in hopes that victims of assault — and specifically male victims — be taken more seriously.
“It’s time to include male survivors’ voices,” he said. “We are up against a system that’s not designed to help us.”
In the early hours of Sept. 5, 2011, Andrew, who asked that his last name be withheld, was up late excitedly chatting with his hallmates in Keeney Quad, one of two main freshman housing units. Jumping from room to room, Andrew admired the varied displays his classmates had on their walls. In his room, Andrew had put up Art Deco travel posters and a screen print of neighborhoods in his hometown of Washington, D.C.
Around 5 a.m., his classmates returned to their rooms while Andrew headed to the communal bathrooms to brush his teeth. Halfway down the hall, a male student he didn’t recognize passed him. Not thinking much of it, Andrew entered the bathroom and began to wash his hands.
A knock on the door surprised him. The bathroom required a dorm key, so anyone who lived in the building should have been able to get inside. Andrew opened the door. It was the same student he had seen in the hall.
Andrew went back to the sink, and the student approached him. “You’re hot,” Andrew remembers him saying. The student propositioned him but Andrew politely declined.
“Nobody has to know,” the student said.
He came up behind Andrew, grabbed his crotch and moved him into the bathroom stall. Frozen, Andrew protested but did not fight back, scared of what would happen if he did.
For 15 minutes the stranger assaulted him.
Andrew has a hard time articulating what he felt during the assault. All he remembers is being unable to speak or act. “I just remember focusing on the stall door, knowing that he was between me and my escape.”
When the assault was over, the assailant “just left.” Andrew remembers resting his head against the bathroom stall and listening to the buzz of the fluorescent lights as he tried to reconcile what had just happened to him.
“I didn’t even know his name,” Andrew said. “I didn’t know who he was. Nobody saw anything.”
Andrew later found out the assailant’s name through a mutual friend. During the hearing process he also learned that his assailant was a sophomore who had been visiting a residential adviser in the dorm earlier that night.
The day after the assault, Andrew told his friends what happened, but joked that it was a “5 a.m. hookup in the bathroom.” It was easier to deal with the shame if he felt control over the situation. At 8 p.m. Andrew and his classmates were required to attend a mandatory orientation meeting entitled “Understanding Sexual Assault.”
Andrew remembers feeling isolated in the auditorium populated by his peers. “It was a sad twist of irony,” he said.
At first, Andrew berated himself, wondering if he could have done more to stop it. But after a couple months he started feeling like himself again, excelling in his introductory course on Urban Studies and joining groups like the Queer Alliance, the Brown University Chorus and a coed literary fraternity.
Things took a turn in the spring when Andrew was cast in a campus production of “Don Pasquale” and attended rehearsals nightly on the north side of campus, where his assailant lived — and seeing him “almost every single time” he was there.
On the morning of Feb. 29, 2012, he had a panic attack. “I got in the shower and suddenly started shaking and could only see in front of me and probably couldn’t have told you where or who I was.”
Andrew started meeting regularly with a counselor, but initially chose not to share the assailant’s name, as he was not ready to pursue a campus hearing. But in May, after a couple months of counseling, he decided to file a formal complaint with the university. The hearing was held the following November.
Andrew’s assailant participated via phone as, unbeknownst to Andrew, he was on suspension for two other cases of sexual assault.
The two other victims, Brenton (who would only give his first name), and another student who requested to remain anonymous, said they filed a joint complaint in December 2011. They had hearings for their cases in March 2012; the university found the assailant responsible for sexual misconduct in both cases and suspended him until the following December.
“I was happy that he got suspended, but I didn’t think it was enough. I knew there were even more people he had gotten to,” Brenton said.
After Andrew’s hearing in November, the university found the assailant responsible for a third case of sexual misconduct and expelled him. The assailant appealed all three sanctions and was rejected. He declined to comment for this article.
The timeline of all three assaults was as follows:
Brown has recently been in the news for accusations of mishandled cases of sexual assault, notably that of Lena Sclove, which prompted a federal Title IX investigation.
In Sclove’s case, the accused student was found responsible for two counts of sexual misconduct and suspended for two semesters. Similarly, the student who assaulted Brenton and the anonymous victim was merely suspended for just over one semester.
Brown’s failure to impose a sufficient sanction was unsurprising to Andrew but upsetting nonetheless. “I wish they had taken it seriously the first one or two times,” he said. “The process weighed on me from April to November. … I could’ve had days of my sophomore year that I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed every morning. … To know that [the hearing process] could have been prevented if they had expelled him the first time is incredibly upsetting. My sophomore year could have been totally different.”
Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, recently sent a letter to the Brown community outlining revisions to Brown’s sexual assault policy, including that a student given a sanction that includes separation from the university would be immediately removed from campus residences (though not necessarily barred from campus). The letter also included clearer guidelines on how the university determines a sanction, but it didn’t determine specific sanctions for violations of sexual misconduct, leaving Andrew’s concern unaddressed.
In a statement emailed to The Huffington Post, Brown University said it could not comment on the individual cases.
“The circumstances of each case are taken into account by the conduct board and adjudicated under our current sanctioning guidelines, which are reviewed regularly,” the statement said. “We believe our process is the right one for our University and we remain committed to doing all we can to keep our community safe and to being a leader in establishing best practices.”
For all the focus on campus sexual assault in recent years, male victims have been frequently absent from the news coverage, except for the most tragic cases, like that of Trey Malone, an Amherst College student who committed suicide after his assault.
One study shows rape victims are 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to have attempted suicide. Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victims services at Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the largest anti-sexual-assault organization in the nation, said both men and women who survive sexual assault face similar psychological effects — but there are some differences. “Male survivors who are suicidal tend to use more lethal means,” Marsh said.
Studies show that one in five women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and that approximately 50 percent of transgender people experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. But statistics vary on the incidence of sexual assault against men. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of 5,000 college students at over 130 colleges, one in 25 men answered “yes” to the question “In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?” Other organizations, such as 1in6, an advocacy group for male survivors, put the estimate much higher, at one in six males before the age of 18.
Steve LaPore, founder and director of 1in6, believes male sexual assaults are underreported because the issue is still taboo. While women have “really moved the ball forward,” resulting in a heightened awareness about sexual assault against women and children, it’s an awareness that doesn’t include men as victims, he said.
“We tell little boys and men to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
“Culturally we still don’t want to see men as vulnerable or hurt,” LaPore explained. “We tell little boys and men to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Because of the stigma, he said, there are fewer resources available for male victims.
LaPore was not surprised by the fact that Andrew’s assailant initially received a lighter punishment. “In many cases we find that it’s more difficult for men to be believed, or to take their case seriously,” he said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of seeing men’s roles as bystanders and preventers, but we don’t recognize men who are survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”
Clayton Bullock, psychiatrist and co-author of Male Victims of Sexual Assault: Phenomenology, Psychology, Physiology, found that male victims are also less likely to come forward or be taken seriously because of their physiological response to assault.
“It is possible for men to get aroused and ejaculate when being assaulted,” Bullock said. “What’s particularly bewildering for the males is that if they ejaculated or were aroused during the assault, it adds a layer of shame or confusion in their culpability of their own victimization.”
Men also have difficulty with the language of sexual assault, according to Jim Hopper, instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and a founding board member of 1in6.
“There are words like ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ that are hard to identify with, especially for men,” Hopper said. “For many men, they don’t want to be a ‘victim’ because it’s antithetical to what it means to be a real man.”
A friend of Malone’s at Amherst, who identified himself as Eric for this article, said he was raped by his freshman-year roommate. After feeling dissatisfied with the school’s handling of his case, Eric attempted suicide by overdosing on Benadryl, but it didn’t work.
“I remember waking up to [my roommate] kissing the back of my neck, and I feel his erect dick behind me,” Eric recalled. “I turn around and am like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘What are you doing in my room?’ And I said, ‘No, dude, you’re in my bed.’”
Eric feels he was targeted because of his sexuality. “I was very open about being gay, so I think that’s a big part of it; he assaulted me because he knew I was gay,” Eric said. “After that I felt like I couldn’t be as out as I was. He thought that was an invitation.”
Andrew, who identifies as queer, believes it’s more difficult for people to talk about queer victims of assault. “They don’t want to think that queer people exist to begin with, so the idea that sexual assault happens in those communities is something people don’t want to talk about,” he said. “There are some people who also believe [sexual assault] is punishment or retribution for being queer.”
The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 40 percent of gay men, 47 percent of bisexual men and 21 percent of heterosexual men in the U.S. “have experienced sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lives.”
Bullock says gay men are often targets of sexual assault because of gay-bashing, or because of conflicted feelings about the assailant’s own attraction to other men in which they are “exorcising their internalized homophobia.”
And since the LGBTQ community is often perceived as promiscuous, it can be difficult for victims to come forward.
“The sentiment I hear the most and feel the most is that because we’re being open about our sexuality, when someone assaults us it’s not an assault,” Eric said. “Like, ‘Oh you were kind of asking for it,’ or ‘Are you surprised you got assaulted?’”
Eric struggled at Amherst in the immediate aftermath of his assault, eventually dropping out when the administration allowed his assailant to remain on campus. After leaving college, he joined the military and became an engineer. He’s feeling optimistic about what’s next, but he still feels the impact of what happened to him.
“You know ‘Carry That Weight’?” he asked, referring to Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz’s campaign to raise awareness of college sexual assault by carrying a mattress around campus until her rapist is expelled. “How I imagine carrying my weight is physical weight. I actually gained a lot of weight, and part of that was intentional. It’s comforting for me being heavier and less looked at as a sex object. In my life I want to be smart, I want to finish college, I want to be good at my job. But I don’t want to be attractive.”
According to Marsh, Eric’s sentiment is typical of both male and female victims.
“The idea that they don’t want any type of attention, or anything remotely resembling sexual advances,” Marsh said. “I think there’s a fear that this could happen again. And if they make themselves so unappealing, they won’t get hurt the way they’ve been hurt before.”
Like many other victims, Eric doesn’t think the punishment for sexual assault at colleges is sufficient.
“If we treated rape the way we treated plagiarism on college campuses, there would be minimal rape,” Eric insisted. “They expel people all the time for plagiarism.”
However, punishment for rape is just one part of the solution. LaPore, founder of 1in6, believes resources need to be more easily accessible for men, including the way clinics and programs are named and advertised. “If we could become willing to be inclusive, we would see more men willing to come forward and say we would like some help,” he said.
Michael Rose, who was in the same coed fraternity as Andrew at Brown, believes the role of bystanders is also integral. “Making sure every space is a safe space” is important, he said. “If more people can be trained as bystanders, and feel comfortable intervening. That’s huge.”
Rose was surprised when Andrew told him about the assault. Despite Rose’s involvement in Brown’s Sexual Assault Peer Education program, Andrew was the first male survivor he had met.
“We were just together in the lounge and we had been talking about consensual sex and life on campus, and he mentioned to me he’d been assaulted his first semester,” Rose said. “I was shocked at first. You never want it to happen, but especially not to someone you know.”
Rose was one of the first people Andrew told about his assault. He told his parents about it the following summer and came out as a survivor to his friends on Facebook during his junior year, when he participated in an online campaign for sexual assault survivors called Project Unbreakable.
He also participated in “Carry That Weight” in solidarity with Sulkowicz’s campaign by carrying a stall door, since his assault occurred in a bathroom.
Both experiences helped Andrew in his healing process. Upon sharing his story, he received encouragement from his friends and family. “My parents were pretty supportive,” he said. “They reiterated the points that I was still valuable and it had no impact on how they thought of me.”
Andrew is now a senior at Brown. He’s finishing his concentration in Urban Studies, writing a thesis on suburban poverty and completing an applied music program. A sign on his dorm door reads, “Hi! Come talk to me about sexual assault, consent, relationships or really anything.”
Walking along the campus green, Andrew seems energized. He talks about the campus buildings and how they provide a great microcosm for exploring urban planning. Specifically, he likes to think about transportation and how it connects people.
As Andrew passes the auditorium where he had his freshman orientation on sexual assault, he says he wants to continue advocating for sexual assault victims. He believes telling his story could make a difference, especially for men. “There are a lot of male survivors who haven’t found someone they can relate to,” he said. “I want to break the silence, and I want other men to know that they’re not alone.”
Boston University is teaching students about safe sex and sexual health with a little bit of help from none other than wizard extraordinaire Harry Potter.
Last week, as part of “Frisky February,” a monthlong series of sexual health-related events at the university, students were invited to participate in “Sex-Ed at Hogwarts,” an interactive, “Harry Potter”-themed class about safe sex, consent and sexual health.
“At this event, half-bloods, house-elves, and muggles alike will learn the proper way to get consent to enter one’s chamber of secrets and how to snog without getting hogwarts,” said the event’s Facebook page. “We’ll be casting some sensual spells in CAS room 313. Hope you can apparate there.”
The class was the brainchild of Michelle Goode and Jamie Klufts, two graduate students who work as interns at the university’s Wellness and Prevention Services program. The duo, both avid Harry Potter fans, said that they hoped to use the magical world of the series as a launchpad to discuss important issues related to sex and sexuality.
“The goal is to use a creative lens to teach sexual health,” Klufts told the Daily Free Press. “Sexual health is often a topic that can provide a lot of discomfort, but by using Hogwarts and Harry Potter language, we hope to enlighten students and also make them more comfortable with learning about it. Additionally, it allows us to reach an audience that we may not have reached otherwise.”
According to the Boston Globe, Klufts and Goode came up with the idea for the Harry Potter-themed sex-ed class after realizing that author J.K. Rowling had missed a golden opportunity to educate her teen and young adult readers about sex when she chose to gloss over the topic in the series.
“[Sex education is] definitely a subject matter J.K. Rowling ignored in a major way,” Klufts told the Daily Free Press. “It’s highly unrealistic to believe that students of middle school and high school age aren’t thinking about sex or engaging in it, or at least coming to terms with their changing bodies and sexual health.”