Sexual Assault Prevention Club in the works

Junior students are tired of silence surrounding sexual assault

Junior Annie Thornton feels it’s time to bring the conversation of sexual assault to the forefront. She has entered the early stages of organizing a sexual assault prevention club for students.

She explained that she was tired of hearing about it all the time while no one was making efforts to stop it, prompting her to take action.

“I’ve had conversations with a lot of my friends and a lot of them have been sexually assaulted or they know people who have and I was kind of getting tired of hearing about it all the time,” said Thornton.

“It’s not that I’ve been getting tired of it, it’s just that I’ve been getting tired of people being afraid of it. It’s such a big problem even at the high school level and you hear about it so often and I’m surprised New Trier doesn’t already have a club for that.”

Junior Lucy Traynor, who was one of the earlier supporters of the club, attributes the lack of conversation thus far to students’ discomfort with the topic.

“I think sexual assault is one of those issues where everyone kind of knows about it, we learn about it in health class, but no one really thinks about it unless it directly impacts them or someone they care about,” she said.

“I think there hasn’t been a club because we’re high schoolers and people don’t like to think about this kind of stuff because it’s uncomfortable.”

Thornton described how the lack of conversation surrounding sexual assault often frustrates her as she goes about her day to day tasks.

“I’m sitting and I’m going to my classes and everything and I’m thinking of the standpoint of someone who survived sexual assault,” she explained. “How am I supposed to sit in here learning about fractions or earth structures when I’ve been sexually assaulted or when someone in my class has?”

Thornton also acknowledged that some of the efforts made in health classes are helpful but nowhere near enough to truly address the topic.

“The only thing they really have is one forty minute period in health class and they show that tea video on consent and how consent is a cup of tea,” Thornton explained.

“That’s really helpful and that’s a great explanation of how consent works but it needs to go further than that and the fact that it doesn’t kind of shows that the administration either doesn’t want to deal with it or they’re turning a blind eye.”

Traynor agreed and feels that while the school may conduct lessons on sexual assault, they only scratch the surface of the issue and thus fail to thoroughly address it.

“We learn about it in health class so maybe that’s the school’s way of talking about it,” Traynor said. “But in health class we just learn about it, we don’t really talk about it. It’s not a discussion.”

Junior Megan Reimer, who has been aiding Thornton in the planning of the club and working to spread the word about it, thought the school may not be particularly eager to initiate these conversations because of how sexual assault has become entangled in politics, but emphasized this is something they hope to combat through the club.

“I think that the school doesn’t address it because they often keep out of things they think might be political. I guess it’s sort of turned political maybe but it shouldn’t be which is also the point of the club,” said Reimer.

“It’s a problem that is universal no matter if you think it’s somehow connected to politics.”

But when sexual assault allegations come up in the news and even in politics, Thornton feels that’s all the more reason to have these discussions in the classroom.

“We don’t talk about it and it’s something that hurts every single person every single day and it’s not just girls, it’s men too. Of course it’s a higher percentage of women, but it’s happening all over the world,” said Thornton.

This growing presence of sexual assault in the media and its growing awareness worldwide is a driving motivation for Thornton, as well as Reimer, to create a club that they hope will be a safe space for people to talk freely about the subject and become more informed.

“[We were thinking about] having speakers come in, having people share their stories, and maybe having viewing parties of documentaries of the #MeToomovement and just informing people of what’s going on and how it affects people,” said Reimer.

Above all else, Thornton stressed that her simple wish is students would begin to talk about it so things can get better.

“It’s just such a big problem and I’m tired of no one talking about it. Once we start talking about it, then we’re able to start combating it,”said Thornton. “It just takes time.”