When My Students Get Raped

We should be careful about appropriating survivors’ stories.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by gbarkz on Unsplash

Students process trauma differently

Some students don’t want to make an official report right away. They just need to tell someone. That initial decision can start the process of coming forward, and you can’t rush it.

Taking away autonomy from a survivor of sexual violence is a further betrayal of that survivor. Rather than help a survivor heal, institutional rules for required reporting can actually further victimize survivors of sexual violence.

— Jennifer Freyd, The Huffington Post

That means letting them decide when and how to report their assault. They might choose tomorrow in a Title IX office. Or they might start working on an essay, or a painting, that helps them process their trauma.

Honoring survivors’ wishes

Rape rips away a person’s consent. It’s a traumatizing experience that leaves them vulnerable for years. Imagine wanting to confide that in someone, then being told that your story isn’t yours anymore.

Creative acts help survivors

Students might want to write about their traumatic experience before they go public. Or they might want to make an essay or other work of art part of their coming forward. An art history student might want to explore representations of rape in paintings. Everyone processes trauma in different ways. Some write and do research as part of their recovery.

What we should do

Mandated reporter laws mean well, but they can make things worse when they’re more focused on liability than support. In fact, many of my students don’t know what Title IX even means. A teacher is usually the first one to actually explain their rights.

Written by

She’s the funny one. jessica.wildfire.writer@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store