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Editorial: Paly journalists sound alarm

Original post made on Apr 19, 2013

When Palo Alto High School journalism students published its issue on teen "rape culture" last week, they knew it would send shockwaves beyond the campus.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 19, 2013, 9:31 AM

Comments (35)

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Posted by education is a civil right
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 9:46 am

The "slut-shaming" bullying described in the Verde story is a form of bullying based on sex. When a girl is so bullied that she has to leave the school because of harassing texts and gossip about sexual behavior that is hostile environment sexual harassment, and if it reaches the point that she has to leave the school then her rights have been violated.

It is actually not complicated. The law is absolutely clear. If bullying based on sex makes it impossible for a child to participate in an educational environment then the law is being violated. The obligation of the school is to intervene effectively to stop the harassment and to ensure that the the victim has a safe environment.

PAUSD does not understand the law of discriminatory harassment. It has for far too long simply shrugged and said "what can we do?" Now those chickens are coming home to roost. PAUSD needs new lawyers who understand the law and needs a renewed commitment to rooting out bullying and harassment in all its forms.

The girl in the Verde story had to leave Paly due to the bullying in this case. That was a deprivation of her rights under federal and state civil rights law. Her parents could have filed, and could still file, a civil rights complaint. They probably won't as most people do not. But they could and if they did it would in all probability found to be valid.

PAUSD, for God's sake, get on the right side of the law.


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Posted by Local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 19, 2013 at 9:49 am

Thank you "Education" . . . that is absolutely correct. Time for a new approach.


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Posted by Paly Grad Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

All of these stories are connected by the binge drinking culture as well as a culture that blames the victim for being raped. I would love to see the local high schools figure out a way to talk to the students about ways to have fun *without* being so loaded that you can't function.

Also there needs to be a look at the way boys act when they are egging each other on. All of these stories feature groups of kids drinking to excess, and a group of boys who end up assaulting one of their friends. Make them aware of "gang mentality" and give them the tools to resist going along with a group.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

" I would love to see the local high schools figure out a way to talk to the students about ways to have fun *without* being so loaded that you can't function."

Sounds like a job for parents and community groups, not for schools. Seriously, the schools should be instructing kids how to party?


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Posted by questions
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

Could girl ever be an aggressor?
Could a guy ever be so drunk that he doesn't realize what he is doing (in the same sense that a drunk girl doesn't realize someone is taking her lying on a bed or whatever for a "yes?"
Where is the line between school knowledge/responsibilities and parenting (weekend social off-campus partying of underage teens)?
How about not drinking yourself into oblivion, especially if you are a minor? (assuming someone didn't do a criminal act of force or spiking a soda drink, for example)
It isn't that simple, folks, but more active parenting might help.
I actually don't agree that it's the same everywhere. Parents, teens, college students behave in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different places. It is important as you grow and mature to learn to start taking responsibility for YOURSELF. Make good choices and please support your peers. I think social media is poisonous.


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Posted by Not so hard
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Preventing teen sexual assault takes a village. Responding appropriately to ensure that the victim can continue to get a public school education takes a school administration that understands and follows the law.


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Posted by Lorin Krogh
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I applaud these students for bringing this beyond "blaming the victim". Everyone of us, in our community, suffers when this is swept away.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

As I have previously posted this is an issue for colleges as well as secondary schools. OCR issued a Dear Colleague Letter in 2011 that makes it clear that colleges have an obligation to provide a safe learning environment under Title IX and that includes making a prompt, appropriate response to reports of sexual assault. I am extremely proud that Stanford has been a leader in this important area and that I have had the opportunity to participate in that effort. Many other colleges, including Yale, have been investigated by OCR for their inadequate responses. Today's NYT reports on two more: Web Link

Of interest to PAUSD readers is the fact that both of these schools, Swarthmore and Occidental responded to the OCR complaints by immediately appointing outside independent commissions to investigate their responses to these allegations of discrimination. This is the right response and one that PAUSD can and should learn from.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm

These students did a wonderful job investigating and writing this article. A lot of wonderful conversations took place between parents and students after the article was published. That said -

Parents should NOT leave teenagers home alone for the weekend or even overnight. If they do, they should EXPECT that a party will take place. Even if your child doesn't "host" the party, kids will show up. Period. Don't make it easier for kids to put themselves at risk.


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Posted by Mother of Grown Children
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Someone please correct me, if I'm wrong, but didn't our state legislature pass legislation last year, allowing a school girl as young as 12 years old to be taken from school, without parental permission (or even knowledge) to get an abortion, knowing abortions being caused after children engaged in sexual relationships?

If I'm correct, the rationale is these children are supposed to be able to make important life decisions, such as that, alongside their teachers, and sans their parents that are strong-armed out of the picture.

If this is accurate, it appears to me school age children are exposed to a lot of sexual content in school. Today is a 'Day of Silence' regarding sexual awareness issues, if I'm not mistaken.

So why is it a surprise to adults that teenage boys (and girls, for that matter) have sex on their minds so much? Isn't it to be expected that issues such as this will arise at school? It's the result of adults having expectations for children to mature quicker, though they're still children.


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Posted by Jls dad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Yes and correct me if I'm wrong but when I have sex o my mind so much I know that the fist thing I do is gang rape a sleeping woman, take a video of said gang rape and then show it to all my friends. That's what I do when I learn about abortions, gay rights, or sex. Raping is just the natural reaction to that. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Moved Away
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Not committed to this line of thinking, but Paly Grad Parent made me wonder - what about a gang enhancement when charging boys who do this? What about charging them w/a hate crime? I'm always incensed that sex crimes against women aren't prosecuted w/a hate crime enhancement. I guess I need to educate myself about both of these enhancements before I type further.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm

My Paly High kids are very relieved that this topic of discussion has come out. They have two close friends that have been victimized via sexual assault (both rapes while they were intoxicated)by their fellow classmates. Both of the girls had been virgins. One incident took place in a park and the other at a house party. Neither came forward due to fears of retaliation by the football players and their fellow female peers of cyberbullying, etc. The girls also felt at fault due to the drinking but neither had been intoxicated before. They were experimenting and had no intentions of becoming drunk. I'd venture to guess this is frequently how teens become intoxicated - by accident. They don't have the experience with drinking that older people do. It's a terrible shame that their peers blame them for the sexual assaults.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I am more concerned with the drinking culture at Paly which is obviously what leads to other things.There seems to be an attititude here whereby it is "normal" and "acceptable" for teens to be so drunk that they pass out or so drunk that they will act reprehensibly with girls. This is wrong.

Even boys who are normally sober and reasonable, will act differently when they have had a lot to drink particularly if they are with a group of "friends" when bad behavior can escalate quickly.

Parents must talk to boys and girls about this issue of drinking. The fact that kids are experimenting with alcohol at parties is worrying. We must not condone this. We must talk to our kids and tell them that they will not be able to make reasoned choices when they have had any alcohol, and the more they consume the less likely they will had good judgment.

MADD is now trying to get this message across. Trying to talk about sexual boundaries while intoxicated is putting the cart before the horse. We must talk more about alcohol and its effects on teen bodies, not just in terms of driving, but in terms of other stupid actions also.


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Posted by JLS dad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I have drank plenty in my life and drank even to blackout and even into darkest most drunk most screwed up youth I never RAPED anyone. Can we please stop saying that this is about drinking? As a recovering alcoholic male I am offended at the idea that drinking turns otherwise normal non predatory males into depraved gang rapists and child pornographers. Alcohol does not make virgins into whores either. It makes girls vulnerable as does any form of unconsciousness. It makes them defenseless against rapists. But drinking doesn't turn normal men into rapists. Rapists are predators. You parents might want to blame the booze rather than hold their sons and community athletes accountable. The booze didn't do it.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

JLS Dad, are you saying that it is OK for 15 and 16 year olds to drink so much alcohol that they pass out?

Of course I agree that not all teen boys will turn into rapists when drunk. I do think that all teens will act differently when they are drunk than when they are sober. Do you agree that teens will act differently when drunk from when they are sober? Do you think that alcohol will affect their judgment?

If so, then regardless of what they do when they are drunk, we must be concerned about the drinking culture.


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Posted by Jls dad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Drinking is something a lot of kids do. It's not good to drink to excess. But it's not why these boys are rapists. These are separate issues and stop mixing them up.


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Posted by Drinker but not a rapist
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Yes -- when I drink I tend to pass out wherever I am. Never had the urge to rape anybody.


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Posted by Felicity
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Thank you to those men who posted that drinking did not make them become rapists. Alcohol lowers inhibitions but it does not create that which is not lurking there without. As a woman, though, I do feel girls need to find a way to express their power potential over boys/men other than dressing so provocatively. One of my sons is shocked at the dress of some girls. Adolescent boys do think about sex A LOT and it is no help to have cleavage and tight, short, revealing clothes staring them in the face at every turn. I'm not saying the girls deserve it, I just wish they could respect themselves more than objectifying themselves. Probably not a very popular view but I think the girls do have some responsibility about putting themselves in a poor position. Ultimately, the only thing we are a victim of is our own choices.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Felicity, way to go blaming the victim! Long windup though -- some of my best friends are women...


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Posted by Simone
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Felicity wrote: "I think the girls do have some responsibility about putting themselves in a poor position. Ultimately, the only thing we are a victim of is our own choices." Well, that and gang rape. And bullying. And victim blaming. But except for those things... [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The combination of athletics (and the factor in gang rape is male team athletics, not alcohol. Please see the marvelous book Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz for an analysis of the role of athletics in rape Web Link) [Portion removed.]


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2013 at 6:39 pm

It is actually attitudes like those of Felicity that enable men to justify rape to themselves and to others, including juries.
See, since she was dressed so provocatively, it wasn't not entirely my fault. I just thought she was asking for it. If she wasn't asking for it, why was she dressed that way? I'm just a male who thinks about sex all the time and she caused me to cross the line.

Attitudes such as felicity's also deter many females from reporting rape or pressing charges. They end up being portrayed as sluts, so they virtually get raped again. this is nothing but simple blaming the victims. Notice how Felicity doesn't require the boys not to drink, not to stare at the girls cleavage and to be sexually aggressive, it's all on the girls.

It's interesting, I like money. I often walk by banks and I know how much money there is in them, yet I'm never tempted to rob them. Perhaps Felicity should tell her sons and their friends that girls can dress as sexy as they like, yet no matter how sexy they are dressed, sexual assault should never be even a remote temptation or thought.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Teen girls think about sex a lot, but how many of them are rapists? How they dress is their issue, not the boys' issue. Quit trying to put responsibility on girls. Until they start raping, the focus needs to be on MALE behavior - aggression, drugging girls, ganging up & PLANNING a sex crime, conspiring to bully, as well as bullying the girls in the aftermath. Yeah, none of that has to do w/fashion.


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Posted by Annie
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I have been trying to get PAUSD to take the simple step of extending the middle school policy of banning phones during school hours. This is so easy to do. No phones at school does not mean the kids are out of touch. If they need to contact their parents they can go to the office, as they do at middle school when afterall they are younger and so have a greater need. After school they can pick up their phones and call their parents if need.

This policy of no phones at school has no downside:
No cyberbullying on school grounds therefore no school liability - none, so our school district will not stand to lose millions.
No cheating using phones sending each other answers
No plagiarism in class.
Less distraction.
Longer attention spans.
No marketing to students on school grounds.
Less zoning out during lunch and recess. More exercise and face expressive communication.

It is so obvious and yet the school district seems scared to take the obvious step. The only reason I can think they dont do this is because they suffer from wanting to seem hip to people who are younger than them.

Anyway sooner or later they will be forced, by law suit or in fear of a similar law suit to Saratoga, they will be forced to do this.
I welcome the day.


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Posted by JLS dad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I agree with Simone (de Beauvoir?). This topic should not be posted to Town Square. There have been several threads. They end up blaming the victims for being drunk, excusing the rapist for being drunk (without irony), blaming the girl for what she wore, her decisions, etc. This is a sad reflection on Palo Alto, and one the editor even criticized in his own editorial -- showing he recognizes the problem. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by JLS mom
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2013 at 6:20 am

I find it fascinating, and depressing, that it is women who often blame the victims of rape and bullying. In the discussion of the OCR report regarding the bullying of a disabled student, some of the posters who denied there was a bullying problem in the district were women. There were a few female posters who even blamed the victim and at least one who actually claimed the disabled student was the bully.4roKC


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Posted by questions
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 20, 2013 at 7:01 am

So can the boys who are defendents(whether literally or by reputation) as being "rapists" owing to both girls and boys drinking to excess and a sexual situation occurring - like with Saratoga High - be labeled predators/rapists or can they blame the alcohol since they can say they were so drunk they didn't know or recall what they were doing?! A lot of girls have the situation where they say they were asleep or unconscious. I would think a person who was asleep would wake up, but being unconscious is totally scary as the person is helpless and may be in danger personally and medically.
With this dilemma, it seems the best course is to FOLLOW THE LAW - it is ILLEGAL to drink underage and it seems very unwise if it leads to these tragic outcomes (rape, bullying, social ostracization, harrassment, distractions from normal life, inappropriate photos taken while someone is unconscious, etc.)
I would think one should call for an ambulance if someone is so drunk they are passed out. The idea of doing anything sexual is terrible and criminal; the idea of not calling for medical assistance is risky and can lead to death if the passed out person has blood alcohol poisoning.


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Posted by JLS dad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 20, 2013 at 7:34 am

boscoli: I think JLS mom (no relation) point is that you have no idea whether these posters are men or women or pigs or chickens or what. This is all anonymous. But if they are women they are mothers of sons who think that if such things happen they happen because essentially and with a lot of couching, girls are whores. They are whores who drink too much and whores who wear slutty clothes. That's why. Not because their sons are rapists. No one wants to have their son involved in a crime, let alone a sex crime. The book recommended above is excellent because it talks about how an entire town turned against a young mentally disabled girl when a group of popular athletes gang raped her. It was Steubenville and Saratoga and Palo Alto.

In terms of pack or gang activity and egging on rape, this is related to male team athletics. Not every football player will participate in a gang rape (my son played football and he's not a rapist). But when these events occur it is no coincidence that they generally involve teammates. If you want to stop rape, then launch your trainings in the athletics departments and make sure your coaches are trained and sending the right message. For one thing, the metaphors that coaches use to urge male players to go after the other team which will be deleted if I post them here are often in the vein of urging sexual violence.

These things have to be changed. The rape culture is in many ways male athletic culture and have little or nothing to do with the girls.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

Love the way that there are assumptions about my kids because of my comments.

Funnily enough, I was a teenager once and can remember it well. My parents taught me about the evils of drinking, hanging out with the wrong crowd, how to dress and act appropriately, how to respect other people particularly those of the opposite sex, and I try to pass those values on to my kids. I also was told not to smoke or do drugs either. Did I ever disobey my parents? Sure but not in any serious way and I was terrified my parents would find out because of what I would get as punishment.

I am just worried about the message that is being taught to our kids today. Sexual misconduct is never OK. But it does seem to be OK to dress how you like (both sexes), drink as much as you like even though it is illegal (both sexes), do pot, have sex and as long as the invisible line is not crossed, have a good time all with parental blessing (both sexes). And, if you get caught, don't worry because parents will get a good lawyer. What does any of this do to teaching our kids respect for authority, the law, each other or even themselves? What does it do for teaching them to be adults and parents in the future?

Teens can get contraceptives and even abortions without parental consent, but I can't give them painkillers to take to school for period pains or cold medication to take to school for a second dose four hours later than the one I give them before school. My parental rights are not the same as the ones my parents had for me.

I tell my kids not to drink and to stay away from places where drinking is going on. I tell my kids not to go to friends' homes where there is no parent in the home. I tell them that sex at their age is not a good idea because it generally leads to problems, hurt, and emotions they are too young to handle. I give them a little alcohol at home in a family setting so that they can see how differently they function as a result of it and also that it is an acceptable thing to do if treated responsibly.

Am I the only one who thinks like this? It certainly feels like it.


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Posted by just sayin'
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

We wonder why our young men are aggressive. How could they do such thing? How could they, in some circumstances, engage in horrific group and individual acts of violence against women. How could they be so disdainful of another person's humanity? We tut tut, and sigh, and say "Not my son."

Then, as a society, we collectively turn on the television, crack open a cold one or three (advertised to us in full color), and proceed to get drunk and celebrate planned, highly organized, extremely profitable, heavily promoted, high definition, and thoroughly glorified mayhem in the form of professional football, one of the most lucrative industries and entertainments in our society. The men who play these games are lauded as heroes for carrying out acts of extreme violence against one another on a field of play. Then THEY suffer concussions, horrible injuries, and life-long disability. Within two to three years of leaving pro football, 78% of players are bankrupt. These are the men we hold up as heroes to our teenage sons.

Those look like symptoms of a bankrupt culture to me.


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Posted by JLS dad
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 20, 2013 at 9:25 am

If you want an eye opening experience, take a look at the companion piece to the article about the girls' experience from the same issue of Verde. Here, the paper publishes the male student views of rape, which basically mirror those of their victim blaming parents from this forum. They did an online survey and here are the results:

58% of Paly students agree that certain women are more likely to be raped due to their flirting, teasing, or promiscuous behavior.

26% of Paly students agree that if a woman willingly gets drunk, then she is raped — she is more responsible for what happened to her than if she had decided not to drink.

23% of Paly students agree that women often falsely cry "rape" because they are feeling guilty about having sex, or if they want to get back at them [the guy].

20% of Paly students agree that women who lead men on deserve less sympathy if they are raped.

Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Let the howling about why I am attacking our perfect town begin. Let the finger wagging about what a wonderful special place Palo Alto is begin. It turns out we are not special. We are just like everywhere else from India to Steubenville. [Portion removed.]

More on jock culture/rape culture:

"There is reason to believe that the same teamwork, camaraderie and "specialness" produced by sports can be violently perverted to create a pack mentality that either spurs sexual violence or makes players fear turning in their teammates. A groundbreaking 1994 study showed that college athletes make up 3.3 percent of male students but 19 percent of those accused of sexual assault."

Web Link#

Web Link

Web Link


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Posted by EditorJean
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

EditorJean is a registered user.

As a community elder, I am very moved and proud of the journalists of Verde at Palo Alto High School. Their courage, and that of victims who told their experiences, shows much hope for the future of Palo Alto.


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Posted by Emma Isabella
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Emma Isabella is a registered user.

Comments on this thread show why so many rapes go unreported. It is not a woman's responsibility to police the thoughts of young men and not show any skin because he might get aroused. We have to stop "slut-shaming" and put more of the onus on males to not engage in this behavior.

I have taught my son that no girl deserves to be raped, that rape means any non-consensual sexual act, and that he has a responsibility to step in and protect a girl in that situation as he would want someone to protect his sister, cousin, or niece. I suggest other parents do the same.


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