By: Jace DiCola
According to the Department of Justice, an average of 321,500 American citizens are victimized by rape and sexual assault each year.
As concerning as the perpetually high amounts of rape and sexual assault are, what is even worse is that 42% of rape victims have experienced their first completed rape before turning 18.
To try and change this, and in response to our school's recent history of sexual assault, Grandview decided to work with Blue Bench, a program about helping and preventing sexual assault, within this year’s Freshman Seminar classes, and the response was mostly positive.
Despite the controversy of rape and sexual assault, administrators decided to cover the topic due to its relevance in modern lives.
“It is hard to look at the news and see all different aspects of life impacted by sexual violence,” said Assistant Principal Brad Weinhold. “So we need to make sure we are supporting students on it.”
Likely because of the relevance, most students and parents alike have been happy to have access to this resource.
“It was definitely a good discussion we had between all of the freshmen,” said Grandview freshman Sophia Vertido. “They gave us some really serious situations and had us think what we can do in those situations and advocate for our peers who might experience this in the future.”
This general satisfaction is seen in a survey where 80% of all Freshman Seminar students whom had to take the class believed Grandview should continue the program, and felt that the program was useful.
In the official results of this survey, only 8% of the survey takers did not respond, and the remaining 12% was split evenly between a strong and moderate disapproval on whether or not Blue Bench should return next year.
So for what reasons is Blue Bench only getting a B- in student satisfaction?
“They did mainly focus on the female aspect of it, and I think we could have gone more in depth because victims are not only female, they can also be male,” said Sophia Vertido.
Opinions similar to these tend to be common throughout the freshmen population, whether it be male or female.
“Maybe touching on that aspect of how sometimes, men are assaulted too. Even if it’s not something that happens a lot,” said Conrad Casebolt.
On the tailwind of opinions like this, a Title IX Complaint was filed against the school in regards to unequal representation of gender identities in the presentation.
Claims that gender bias and misrepresentation in the Blue Bench presentation on consent and sexual assault are points likely grown from misunderstandings and time limits from the piloted program.
Though Blue Bench has presented these topics to districts all around Colorado, such as the Denver Public School district, Blue Bench presenters have faced the challenge of catering a very sensitive topic to multiple different school time needs for convenience.
According to Susie Roman, Director of Prevention and Education at Blue Bench, presenters had to consolidate a 5+hour lecture into a 90-minute presentation for freshmen, as it had to fit the inescapably brief amount of time given to Blue Bench so that they can present in the first place.
To top it off, in all of Grandview High School's curriculum, Freshman Seminar is the only mandated class that has to be taken in a specific grade level, making it the only opportunity for Blue Bench to present.
Regardless of the turbulence noticed in the pilot, this presentation is imperative to not only our school, but the entirety of our world.
“It was good that they came in and talked about that subject with us, it was probably the most in-depth talk I have had in my schooling career,” said Casebolt.
In response to these complaints about misrepresentation, it would be beneficial for Blue Bench to continue lecturing in years to come, but throughout high school, building upon the topics as students mature.
Sexual assault is an umbrella of so many topics, that attempting to condense them all into one presentation for freshmen is nowhere near as beneficial as covering everything through the years.
Not only would this allow for students to gain a lengthened knowledge about the topic and how to help themselves and those victimized, but the proper amount of time would allow for a wide variety of examples and scenarios, which can include all gender and sexual identities.
For Grandview’s bravery in implementing such a bold topic into Freshman Seminar, and for Blue Bench to present it in order to prevent sexual assault, we should all be thankful.
In regards to the Title IX complaint regarding the misrepresentation of gender, it is important we communicate this to student leadership and administration, but ensure we understand that like all first tries, there are bound to be small errors.
And with this, administration and Blue Bench alike plan on heading into the next school year continuing their presentation on a mission to prevent sexual assault.