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How can students feel safe anywhere if they can’t at school?

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A New Hampshire jury recently made a ruling in the trial of Owen Labrie, a 19-year-old St. Paul’s prep school graduate accused of raping a girl when she was 15.

The fact that this case even made it to a trial shows the progress that this country has made toward battling rape and rape culture in our society. However, this case also showed that there’s still plenty that needs to be done.

When it comes to rape being reported, people have to decide whether they believe the victim or the accused. More often than not, many flock to the side of the accused. Rape is no joke.

If a woman says that she’s been raped, she should be taken seriously. The problem lies in the fact that today’s society likes to make a joke out of everything.

In this court case, Labrie was quoted using the words “slay,” “pork” and “score” when telling his friends about his encounter with the victim. Labrie told the jury that these terms were “used loosely” and “could mean a range of activities, from kissing to sex.” No, these words are meant to demean both women and men. They make sex sound like something casual. Sex is one of the biggest responsibilities a person could ever take on. As such, it should be treated with respect. Consent is always needed.

This case has also sparked a debate on what real consent is. The rule of thumb is usually “no means no.” Perhaps a better phrase to remember would be “yes means yes.” It should be clear that both parties consent before engaging in any sexual activity. The victim said that she did agree to meet with Labrie but that she said “no” multiple times before he had sex with her. Some may argue that her agreeing to meet him was her way of giving consent because she “knew what would happen” but anyone should be able to say no if they are not comfortable with the situation that they’re in, and that no should be respected.

The fact that St. Paul’s prep school has a tradition like the “Senior Salute” where senior boys take the virginities of young girls before graduation, makes you question how many other schools turn a blind eye to traditions like these. One thing is clear: something needs to be done. If students can’t even feel safe and comfortable at a “prestigious” and “elite” school, how can they ever feel safe anywhere?

Nancy Peyton can be contacted at [email protected]

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