Recently, a shocking incident took place in which two under age students were sexually assaulted by a group of Norman North high school wrestlers while they were on a school bus. Even worse, based on reports, they also harassed the youngest victim after leaving the bus.
The point that shocked me the most is that there were two wrestling coaches, who were in charge of overseeing all students, on the bus at the time the incident was occurring.
Honestly, I have not ever dared to imagine those kinds of terrible events happening – especially in the U.S. – one of the most developed countries in the world and in a peaceful place like Oklahoma in particular.
I made numerous searches though and found that a similar incident also took place last December in Ooltewah high school, located in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Three basketball players were accused of raping a 15-year-old teammate with a pool cue.
According to DoSomething.org, more than 3.2 million students are being bullied each year and around 17 percent of American students reported being bullied two to three times per month.
In the annual school crime report from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, in 2009 and 2010, there were 4,200 sexual assaults which included 600 rapes or attempted rapes, and 3,600 other types of sexual assaults in schools.
Al Jazeera America hosts a survey on their website pointing out groups of students who are most at risk for sexual harassment. Most at risk are girls who are really developed, then girls who are very pretty, boys who aren’t very masculine, girls who aren’t pretty and girls and boys who are overweight.
Incidents like these have not just happened recently. This is on ongoing problem and it seems like there are not any clear and practical efforts to stop them.
I hear people who say in the aftermath that abusers will pay for what they did and victims will recover and go back to their normal life after everything is handled.
I have to say that this kind of thinking misses the point, that all physical pain might heal but some pain never will. Those very young victims will have to carry those scars for the rest of their life.
Teenagers are vulnerable and they need to have as much protection as possible, not just from their schools but also from their parents.
Usually, parents discover their children are being sexually harassed or bullied at school when the situation turns to the worst, for example, when the student doesn’t want to go to school anymore or bruises become visible on their body. It can be well before this point though that young people who are bullied contemplate or attempt suicide or self-harm.
Don’t wait until it is too late.
Parents need to be aware of their children’s behavior and take notice of whether their behavior is changing in an unusual way. When children become sad, withdrawn or upset, it’s time to ask questions and consider that bullying may be taking place.
Teachers and schools need to make more connections with teenage students and build trust and let students know someone is willing to help them come forward if they are feeling unsafe or being bullied by other students.
And all people need to be willing to intervene when they know bad things are taking place.