September 20, 2018
We have had all of you on our minds recently: it might be the energy of “going back to school,” or the accumulation of so many stories shared by 17-year old girls, but we are thinking a lot about you. We are thinking about our collective responsibility to create and manifest hope – not a superficial hope, but a hope grounded in truth-telling.
Last month, a Twin Falls jury verdict found a 40-year-old male teacher not guilty of having sexual intercourse with his 17-year-old female student, this despite the fact even that the teacher admitted to doing so and that it is a crime under Idaho statute. He did so with a student, like all other students, who deserved care, protection, and guidance.
The jury attempted to invalidate the inherent worthiness of this 17-year-old girl, and all other girls and women and people who are gender nonconforming, because they believed her value was less than his. It is this belief that fosters a culture of violence.
To the 17-year-old Twin Falls student, now 18, we do not know your story. We do not know if you feel you were harmed, or if you will come to believe you were harmed years from now. When anyone experiences sexual exploitation or assault by someone who has power over you, like a family member or teacher, it can take time to sort through the complicated feelings and begin a healing journey. You might experience depression, drop out of school, or engage in self-harm. It is not unusual to be shamed by others. We hope this did not and does not happen to you. But, from the comments on social media, odds are you have wrongly been the target of shame and blame.
Here’s the thing: it was never your fault. You did not deserve to be exploited, even if you wanted to have sex with your teacher. Your teacher, 22 years older, was solely responsible for his failure to understand that students were entrusted in his care.
We have collectively failed you and the thousands of girls in Idaho have been or will be sexually assaulted this year. We cannot change our culture fast enough to protect you.
In the recent Netflix documentary, Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, forty-year old Gadsby talks about Pablo Picasso’s sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old girl he described as in “her prime.” “No 17-year-old is ever in her prime,” says Hannah Gadsby. “A 17-year old girl is just never, ever in her prime. EVER. I am in my prime. Would you test your strength out on me? There is no way anyone would dare test their strength out on me – dare! – because you all know there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
You are not alone. #MeToo has demonstrated the strength of girls and women who have rebuilt themselves. This is resilience in action. And 17-year-old girls, while we continue to work to change the culture, create and manifest hope with your very being.
Adverse childhood experiences are unfortunately all too common in our society. A Comprehensive National Survey by the US Department of Justice on children’s exposure to violence stated that “we live in a country were children are more likely to be exposed to violence than adults.”
The statistics for children from marginalized communities show a disproportionate and unsettling reality about what life is like for children of color, children who identify as LGBTQIA+, children with disabilities here in the US, and children from other marginalized communities.
We attribute cultural practice of adultism to this staggering amount of violence against children, especially when combined with other oppressions. Adultism is societies preference, bias, and systemic favoring of adults over children.
Adultism negatively affects children by invalidating or erasing their voices, creates systems that do not serve minors, and requirement of parental consent to receive services. These barriers, among others, can hinder children experiencing violence from seeking help. This also serves to create an environment where children can easily be targeted by perpetrators of violence.
What we have is a system that is based on diminishing young people’s role in society, by the time they are adults, they have learned to internalized these messages. In the next article we visit how childhood experiences affect children.
Three Things to reach out to me for:
Free Interpreting Services for Deaf Victims of Crime
DeafLEAD is now offering a 24/7/365 nationwide free sign language interpreting service for Deaf individuals who have been victims of crime, as well as for hearing service providers working with Deaf victims. The DeafLEAD crisis interpreters are CI/CT nationally certified with extensive training and experience working with Deaf victims of crime. To learn more about this service, please click here.
Videophone Crisis Line for the Deaf Community
DeafLEAD is now offering a 24/7/365 nationwide crisis videophone hotline service to Deaf individuals who are victims of crime. Deaf individuals are now able to access immediate assistance and resources that are both culturally and linguistically accessible using a trauma-informed approach. To learn more about this service, please click here.
As a reminder, we would like to highlight the availability of SASP emergency assistance funds. These funds are allocated to provide support to individuals impacted by sexual assault.
Funds may be accessed by our member programs: those who receive SASP funds, as-well-as program members who do not currently receive SASP funds.
We also know that many victims of sexual assault interact with agencies working with individuals with disabilities, with culturally specific agencies or with LGBTQ organizations. These organizations may reach out to you looking for support and resources, please know that organizations who are not member programs, may also access these funds when looking to provide emergency support to individuals impacted by sexual assault.
Emergency assistance requests may be made directly to, Lacey. Each request will be evaluated to determine that it fits within the SASP priority areas and eligibility requirements. After approval, reimbursement will be made directly to the provider for the individual.
Emergency assistance may include, but is not limited to: counseling, medical assistance, rental or employment assistance, civil legal assistance or other approved expenses related to the victimization.
If you have any questions regarding the SASP Emergency Assistance Funds, please contact Lacey.
Three Things to reach out to me for: