Why are private schools more associated with sexual assault?

Why are private schools more associated with sexual assault?

Illustration by Ayomi Wolff

Anna Gustafson and Sabina Lordan

Following the intense sexual assault hearing against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it’s hard not to think about how student experiences at Wilson may relate to those of Kavanaugh’s accusers.

Three allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh have emerged from high school and college. He profusely denied these allegations, which further ignited a nationwide debate concerning his actions. The allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a Holton-Arms School alumna, have sparked an evaluation of private schools, like the one Kavanaugh attended, Georgetown Preparatory School, as well as public schools, like Wilson.

Many private schools in the DC area do not spend time covering sexual assault. “We don’t really talk about sexual assault at my school,” said sophomore Zara Kovner, who attends St. John’s. At Wilson, students have taken the initiative to combat this issue by spreading awareness through social media platforms and clubs.

Wilson junior Alaia Lee said she’s noticed a lack of awareness about sexual assault at Wilson as well. “I’ve seen there’s a lot of ignorance and gross comments about sexual assault, making it seem like something funny, when in reality it’s a very serious issue in our community and society,” Lee said.

The majority of the interviewees said that they know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted. If it is an issue at both private and public schools, why is it associated more with private schools?

“I think it’s stereotypical to say that private schools have wild parties because of how it’s portrayed in shows like Gossip Girl, but I think it truly depends on the group of people involved,” Georgetown Visitation sophomore Brigid Mulligan said.

Some private schools, such as the high school at St. Albans, do not require students to take a sexual education class. Sexual education can be helpful in promoting conversations regarding females and males and providing essential knowledge when discussing the issue of sexual assault.

At Wilson, St John’s, and Visitation, anyone who wants to is free to form their own club where they can host meetings discussing any topic, including sexual assault. “Wilson isn’t perfect, but at least we’re able to talk about it because of our diverse environment,” sophomore Samuel Johnson said. For example, the club Common Ground had a discussion on sexual assault on September 21. Due to the more traditional values of religiously centered Catholic schools such as St. John’s and Visitation, discussions regarding sexual assault “do not occur often,” said Mulligan.

“Sexual abuse can happen anywhere,” Lee said, pointing out how it is not selective according to school. However, one’s high school does have a major impact on an individual’s morals and values. During a 2015 speech, Kavanaugh joked, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” Some view this as an implication that “all male behavior is excused,” Mulligan said, and ultimately a reflection of Georgetown Prep.

In order to educate students on the seriousness of sexual assault, “private schools as well as public need to step up their game,” said Johnson.