Sexual violence has long been an issue in American society. According to one study, roughly 1.3 forcible rapes occur each minute in the United States. The socialization of men and women as well as society’s presupposed traditional gender roles play pivotal roles in the sexual violence directed at young girls in high school. This essay discusses the prevalence of sexual assault and rape in high school as well as the issues that underlie such crimes.
According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 54% of the females surveyed were younger than age 18 at the time they were raped. Roughly 32.7% were between the ages of 12 and 17. Furthermore, in a study conducted in South Dakota, the frequency of date rape among high school girls ranged from 11.8% to 14.9%. In yet another study, 15% of high school participants reported experiencing sexual violence in their dating relationships. In addition, according to studies conducted by the American Association of University Women in 1993 and 2001, roughly 80% of students in public schools have experienced sexual harassment by school administration or personnel or by their peers. In another study on dating violence in high schools conducted by Molidor and Tolman, 46% of the students stated that the dating violence had occurred on school grounds. Moreover, in 2006, the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that the rate of rape and sexual assault among 12- to 15-year-olds was 3.4 per 1,000. For 16- to 19-year-olds, the rate was 2.5 per 1,000.
Sexual assault and rape among high school girls are grossly underreported. There are myriad reasons why young girls do not report these crimes. One reason is fear of retaliation, especially if the offender is known to the victim, which is typically the case. For example, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005, seven of every 10 victims of rape and sexual assault had been victimized by someone they knew.
Additionally, shame, guilt, and a lack of faith in the criminal justice system contribute to the issue of underreporting. In essence, because of the nature of such fear-inducing crimes, young girls often concede to living in a world where silence reigns supreme.
While there are several reasons for the prevalence of sexual violence directed at young girls in high school, one major reason is the socialization of men and the traditional gender roles advocated by society. The United States seems to be infatuated with gender and androcentrism. As a consequence, boys incessantly receive messages from parents, siblings, and the media about what it means to be a “real” man. While girls are supposed to be submissive, sexually pure beings, boys are encouraged to be tough, aggressive, and assertive sexual athletes. Such a macho mentality has the side effect of perpetuating sexual violence against young girls.
As studies on sexual violence in high school were published indicating the immense scope of this problem, educational institutions began to implement educational programs aimed at fostering rejection of rape-supportive attitudes, altering aggressive behavior, and ultimately curbing the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in high school. Although little is known about the effectiveness of such programs, as educators, it is incumbent upon a high school’s administration and staff to impart the knowledge that is essential to reduce the incidence of sexual violence.
Conclusively, sexual assault and rape are crimes that are generally void of sexual gratification. They begin and end with a sense of entitlement and a craving for power, domination, and control. Moreover, the idea of an aggressive “real” man, which may be disseminated by parents, siblings, and the media alike, plays a crucial role in the sexual victimization of high school girls. Although it is impossible to completely eradicate sexual assault and rape, through education and a gradual abandonment in the detrimental “real” man images, young men and women can collaborate and curtail the occurrence of sexual violence in high school.
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