(A guest blog, written by Maggie P., a Practicum student at SAVES, the Franklin County office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services. Thank you, Maggie!)
As a female, I have always been taught to recognize and defend myself against those who may cause me harm. For example, my parents started telling me from a young age to not walk alone at night, to avoid unfamiliar places, and to keep my guard up at all times when interacting with strangers. This dialogue is common among adolescent females and their protectors, so I never thought anything of it. As I have grown older, and have become more aware of the world around me, the idea of my parents telling me to be constantly afraid seems ridiculous. When I came to college at the University of Maine at Farmington, I was given a “rape whistle” in my orientation packet. It was a joke among my friends, and no one took the tool seriously, especially because there was a $25 fine if you blew it when not in crisis. I just learned recently, however, that only females were given these whistles; male students had the option as to whether or not they wanted one. Seriously? I took this information to be very offensive, as did the other females I was with who found out. I understand that the university is just trying to protect their female students, but to only assume that we would be the victim of rape or sexual violence is absolutely absurd. Many people associate sexual violence with the female gender because we are most often seen as vulnerable and, statistically, we are the majority of the victims. People seem to overlook the fact that 1 in 5 males will be the victim of some sort of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lifetime (Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault). I don’t know whether this is due to a lack of education or people’s own choice to overlook the fact, but sexual violence can happen to anyone. In high schools and universities, this statement should be reinforced. Maybe this would open young people’s eyes to the severity of sexual violence among all genders, races, and ages. Education is the best way to prevent sexual violence; not encouraging young females to constantly be on guard and on the defense. When I was in high school, I don’t remember any lessons in my health class that focused on sexual violence or rape. I understand that some people still see it as a taboo subject, but without education there can be no progression. If we continue to just reinforce the defense method to young adult females, and completely ignore young adult males, sexual assault statistics are never going to change. Schools need to implement education programs, get facts to their students, and encourage the younger generations to be aware instead of just afraid.