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A Teen's Palo Alto

By Jessica Zang

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About this blog: I’m Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto-born, slightly cynical Gunn High School student who’s passionate about linking high school life to the bigger picture. What’s really going on in our high schools in Palo Alto? Everything a high ...  (More)

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Let’s do better: start by believing survivors.

Uploaded: Jan 25, 2021
This is a call to action.

Under the surface of the Palo Alto Unified School District’s high-class education and suburban bubble lies a sinister reality. In 2020 alone, PAUSD received 50 reports of sexual harassment—not including the incidents that were not reported, which have historically made up a majority of cases. Many survivors have since come forward with their stories, a daunting experience given the skepticism and scrutiny many have faced in the aftermath. Yet despite numerous allegations—in one case, over 10 people coming forward against the same offender—many of the accused have yet to be questioned, let alone face repercussions for their heinous actions. This weekend, the high school community rallied together on social media, showing support for those who were courageous enough to tell their stories. Despite this inspirational show of unity, online solidarity is simply not enough. To truly combat the crippling effects of rape culture in our community, the system itself must change. And while there is no clear path forward, it’s time we put more energy into supporting victims and holding the perpetrators accountable. How can we boast of the education or opportunities in Palo Alto when we have failed to protect the victims of sexual assault in our very own high schools?

We must begin by believing survivors and start with the assumption that they are telling the truth. This doesn’t mean that we must take every accusation as fact. It means becoming a community where survivors are given a chance to speak out, to be heard, and to be treated with respect. When a person is brave and strong enough to reveal their stories to the world in order to seek justice for themselves and against their assaulter, we cannot simply look away, effectively turning our backs on those who need support. We cannot refuse to acknowledge the problem, hoping that it will make it any less important or any less disgusting. We cannot immediately doubt accusations when we hear them. Especially in high school, what does a survivor stand to gain when coming out with their story other than justice? In the past, survivors have faced ridicule, ostracization, and disbelief. Their closest friends have turned on them to ally with the perpetrators. Some even feel guilt, a perceived shame for ‘ruining their assaulter’s life’ by speaking up. This is all wrong. What we have allowed here is rape culture; we’ve upheld stereotypes and ideals that normalize sexual assault and make our communities more susceptible to it. In the past, we have suffocated the voices of survivors, making them feel as if keeping their experiences secret is the best way to heal.

I do not feel like I need to explain what is wrong here. Time and time again, the responsibility for reform has fallen into the hands of the youth. It should not take more than a dozen girls posting their worst experiences for the world to see in order for us to notice the problem in the first place. The administration can do better. We, as a community, can do better. And the numerous survivors in our communities deserve better. It’s time we confront the rape culture that has permeated through our community, and stop defending or justifying the actions of sexual assaulters. Let’s start now.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   15 people like this
Posted by PA family, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jan 26, 2021 at 5:33 am

PA family is a registered user.

Paly needs to investigate this, and I am sure they are. Every teen we know has been talking about this since Saturday night. There is a Paly student group forming this week to talk about it during a lunch Zoom. As a parent, I would love to understand more about what is happening here in our community. It is alarming. Thanks, Jessica, for your post.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jan 26, 2021 at 7:29 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Amen Jessica. Sadly, unless you're raped by a total stranger who breaks into your home, the victim is blamed. And it needs to stop.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Squidsie, a resident of another community,
on Jan 26, 2021 at 9:02 am

Squidsie is a registered user.

Unfortunately, the crime of sexual assault has been politically "weaponized", and inconsistently applied to advance partisan interests. Contrast the Kavannaugh hearing, and the insistence that "the woman must be believed" with vague and remote charges which were unsupported by any other source, to the far more recent and specific charges against Joe Biden, which were summarily dismissed by Democratic partisans, including womens groups. The charge has become a sort of Rorshact test, in which people tend to see what they WANT to see.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by R. Cavendish, a resident of another community,
10 hours ago

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

Curious...what are the actual % breakdowns of these alleged sexual assaults?

In other words, what % are: (1) heterosexual in nature (i.e. female students being attacked by male students including sexual attacks by female students against male students), (2) random attacks on transgenders by homophobes, or (3) homosexual-related attacks where the same gender is sexually assaulting the other?

While all non-consensual sexual attacks should be investigated and followed with with suspensions and/or juvenile incarceration if warranted, I suspect that certain assaults by members of the LGBTQ community will be overlooked because of today's PC leniencies and force-fed modern-day sympathies towards those who are viewed as being 'different' from the mainstream population.


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