OPINION: We must be a generation of cognizant leaders

For Christmas this past year, my grandparents bought every woman in my family an automatic rape whistle. Wrapped in the unspoken expectation of eventual sexual assault, this gift terrified me. A few years ago I would have believed that an item like a rape whistle could significantly aid in preventing sexual assault. However, over the course of high school, as I’ve become increasingly aware of the statistics and facts surrounding sexual assault and party culture, I’ve learned to fear my future college years. Until the #MeToo movement began, I believed that a bachelor’s degree would certify the end of a woman’s time being preyed on. With the emergence of countless assault scandals by men in positions of power, the past few months have led me to realize that sexual assault runs rampant outside of dark street corners and sticky fraternity basements.

As a senior in high school, I spend a lot of time thinking about my future: where I will live, and what I will do? Now, a new layer of complexity is added: who will I work with?

I’ve also started to think about who my peers will grow up to be. I love going to Urban, and I know that I am surrounded by some of the brightest minds in this country, people who are going to become powerful leaders. How will Urban graduates hold that power when entering the workforce? With grace and responsibility, or with aggression and lust? I think we need to be teaching accountability at the highschool level, because I believe the problem starts here.

The San Francisco teen hookup culture can be an empowering place to enter adulthood but, at the same time, the freedom and experimentation that our hookup scene provides goes hand and hand with muddled moments of questionable consent. With an approach of “touch first, ask later,” it’s no wonder that so many stories of sexual assault circulate in our culture.

However, I believe that the health education at Urban is unparalleled in terms of bringing awareness to issues of consent. The discussions that arise from Health 10 continue into junior and senior year, and I think those conversations make Urban students more cognizant of the effects of their actions. It is not perfect and perhaps for some the conversation begins too late, but I think our Health Department at least gives students a chance to reflect on the impact of their actions in a way that is rarely seen in the classroom.

The recent surge of headlines highlighting a common narrative of sexual assault in nearly every possible professional setting is no doubt chilling. However, with the #MeToo movement, hearing the stories can be, in some ways, empowering. Yes, it is horrible that so many powerful men have abused their position and taken advantage of the women around them, but we are hearing the stories now. No longer will we accept a culture of silence. The voices of abused women have united and, as horrible as their stories are, they are now getting the recognition and attention they deserve. This gives me hope. By beginning to combat decades of silence, perhaps now we will see tangible change and my generation will be able to enter a workforce where sexual assault has consequences for the assaulters.