Thanks to the dedicated work of many rape and sexual assault survivors, a harmful anti-survivor bill from extremist Rep. Earl Ehrhart was killed this past legislative session. Now, a new report from the National Women’s Law Center speaks to just how widespread and devastating sexual assault is — starting with young women in high school.
By the time they are 18, more than one in five young women have been sexually assaulted. Yes, that’s right, more than twenty percent of teenage girls have been sexually assaulted by the time they graduate high school. This is in addition to the equally high rates of campus sexual assault that undergraduate women experience.
Full stop. This is a crisis.
Ehrhart and his supporters are probably busy drafting the next awful piece of legislation they plan to push to silence survivors and support rape culture, but as survivor and advocate Grace Starling previously wrote, “rape isn’t a partisan issue.”
Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Everyone should be on the side of ending rape culture and supporting survivors.
“It’s a national disgrace that so many girls are being pushed out of school either overtly or because they aren’t getting the support they need,” said Anna Chu, NWLC Vice President for Income Security and Education, in a press release accompanying the report. “Girls’ futures are on the line — now is the time to take action and address their needs.”
What’s more, rape and sexual assault continue to be significantly under-reported. As the report highlights, far too many of these young students are wrestling with multiple forms of violence; in addition to sexual assault, students face harassment and bullying because they are LGBTQ, homeless, disabled or students of color.
NWLC is launching a new campaign called Let Her Learn, in order to address the epidemic of violence young women face in school. Their report comes with some really straightforward recommendations for how school’s can better support students who are survivors of sexual assault (and other forms of violence), including things as simple as making sure that there are crisis counselors available at all schools and that teachers have training to recognize when someone is dealing with trauma.
Survivors absolutely need to be supported, and ultimately, the (rape) culture that allows this epidemic of violence against young women to flourish needs to end.
Ehrhart can continue to be a bully more interested in protecting assailants than making schools safer. He can continue to press his false narratives about sexual assault in order to advance his rape culture-fueled dreams for the future of schools. And as long as he remains in office, he will continue to have a pulpit to do so.
But the reality cannot be changed: more than twenty percent of teenage girls will be raped or sexually assaulted while in high school, and equally as many young women face the same prospects in college.
This is a crisis. And undoubtedly it is one among many that this country must address. But it’s one survivors have proven they are ready to fight. The only question is: are you ready to stand with them?