Two Eighth Graders Tackle Rape Culture, Petition For Educational Awareness

Two eighth grade students from Ontario are fighting to have schools take rape culture more seriously, and to include consent awareness programs in the national sex education curriculum.

A sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the United States, and less than 10 percent of them will ever be reported to authorities. When one in four women will be sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime, there is no denying that we have a serious problem with rape culture in our society. But two eighth grade students are hoping to change that.

Lia Valente and Tessa Hill have created a petition at Change.org, calling for the school system to add consent awareness education to the sexual education program to teach young boys that the absence of a “no” does not equal a “yes”.

In their petition, the young girls explain why focussing on consent in sex education is so important for girls.

“As young people going to school in Ontario we often see how much sexism and harassment takes place. We hear stories from our friends about cat-calling and slut shaming in the hallways and in the classroom. We also notice the lack of awareness about safe sex and consent. There are different sources in our society that make and perpetuate rape and sexual violence, but one of them is our lack of sex education…When young people don’t learn about the importance of consent in a sexual relationship, it can lead to unhealthy relationships and ultimately perpetuates rape culture.”

When our society is constantly blasted with derogatory, often misogynistic images of women as well as a narrative that conflates sex with violence that not only refuses to take violence against women, especially sexual violence, seriously, it actually creates an environment that encourages it to occur.

Withe help of social media, the “We Consent” petition gathered over 2,500 signatures and gained national attention in both Canada and the United States, and their hard work paid off. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has responded by agreeing to include consent and sexual violence in the nation’s sex education programs.

While some critics may argue that such interventions may be occurring at too young of an age, the reality is that sexual harassment and sexual assaults are occurring at younger ages. A study that was conducted by the American Educational Research Association found that one in four middle school students had already experienced sexual harassment.

Do you think the United States will follow the girls’ lead and change to include sexual violence and consent as part of America sex education?