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Being 24-year-old woman living in the United States who has attended an American university for the last six years, the sexual assault epidemic on college campuses concerns me.

Sexual Assault

The Intervention for Sexual Assault—Marisabel Santiago

As a social work student we are required to complete around 1,000 hours of supervised field work, I’ve worked with youth and young adults for all of my hours. I grew with these students, predominately all of them being cisgirls (cis: a woman or girl whose psychological gender identity is also socially female). I have taught them about life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, education and leadership. However, it wasn’t until more recently that I’ve had to add another lesson to my repertoire.

The sexual assault and rape lesson was one that did not cross my mind when I was working with 4th-6th graders, or even my 7th-8th graders. Looking back now, however, it should have been. According to “Stop It Now”, an organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse against children, it is common for children ages 13-16 to start behaving sexually. It is common behavior for youth these ages to begin “Experimenting between adolescents of the same age, including open-mouthed kissing, fondling and body rubbing, oral/genital contact.”

In the United States sexual education classes are only required in 24 states. My question is, if we know students begin to experience sexual behavior within their middle school years, why aren’t we educating them on safe sex and the importance of consent? If we educate our children at a young age, will that dissolve the rate of sexual assaults happening in our schools?

Recently, while working with my high school students, I introduced the topic of sexual assault on college campuses. I had to teach my girls, 15 and 16 year olds, my girls that we’ve been pushing to go to college, my girls that we’ve been protecting for their entire lives, that when they get to college 1 in 5 of them would be the victim of a sexual assault or rape. These young girls who are so bright, talented, funny, and full of potential will have all of that ripped from them within the first two weeks of their first year of college. These are our sisters, some mothers, and most commonly our daughters.

Our education system continues to fail our students both at the middle and high school systems and on collegiate campuses across the country. Failure to teach our students about safe sex, HIV protection, healthy relationships, and consent are causing major issues for our society.

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Such as, teen pregnancy rates being the highest in the U.S., one in four teens contracting an STD/STI, ignorance and hate for the LGBTQIA community being perpetuated, and the rate of sexual assault and rapes on college campuses rising. For instance, in 2010 “63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes”

The education system disregarding the importance of these health concerns and these public safety issues is creating destructive patterns. These sort of injustices are not only detrimental to the young women, but also young men. It is a huge disservice to our students, families, and the community. I am tired of our students not receiving the proper knowledge they need to be safe in our world. When the system fails to do its job, we need to take a stand.

The future is female. We need to protect the next generation of lawyers, doctors, teachers, professional athletes, filmmakers, artists, and social workers. It’s time to make some major changes to our education system and to our foundation of child protection.

Let’s end this systematic silencing. Let’s educate our young children from the very beginning about healthy sex practices, consent, and other identities. Our school curriculum needs to include these topics to help dissolve the frequency of harm to our children.

So what is the solution? We hire social workers to educate our students. We hire social workers to create campus programs that prevent sexual violence. We hire social workers to sit on private Title IX investigation boards. We hire social workers to provide clinical therapy to survivors to help keep them in school. We hire social workers to provide clinical therapy to repeat offenders to help rehabilitate them.

We hire social workers to create and implement new policies that disrupt the entitlement of athletes and fraternities on college campuses. We hire social workers to advocate education curriculum reform. We hire social workers to fight for nationwide health education courses that are standardized. We hire social workers to make the difference, because after all we are agents of change.

Marsy Santiago

So, in the famous words of Nicki Minaj, “Yo, Department of Education, What’s Good?

Marisabel Santiago
University of Southern California School of Social Work