Three weeks ago, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped in her Maryland high school by two older students. I read a lot about it in my news feed because I happen to have graduated from the rival high school, located about 10 minutes down the road.
There was a lot of coverage on the matter from The Washington Post, which is unsurprising because it handles both local and national issues. Specifically, there have been 29 pieces in the paper about the rape since the news broke. Some of them were directly about the alleged rape, some about how it received national attention from Republican politicians because the alleged assailants were undocumented immigrants, and some of the articles pushed back, arguing that conservatives should not use this incident as an excuse for xenophobia.
As for myself? Well, I, of course, was outraged by the fact this sexual assault had happened. Since graduating from high school four years ago, I have become a vocal critic of sexual misconduct and have called for those in power, be it government officials or school administrators, to do more.
A lot of middle schools and high schools do not teach about consent — I mean, how can they, when many are not allowed to discuss sex much at all? Thankfully, my county does have pretty comprehensive sex education, but to be honest, knowing what I know about sexual violence, I’m not all that surprised that this happened. But my thoughts didn’t center around the assailants because I knew very well that they could have been anyone.
That’s why, when a series of columns appeared in the Prince, I was frustrated. The writers quite frankly weren’t coming from the same place I was, being so close to the incident in question, or as focused on the very serious problem of sexual violence and its high prevalence in America’s high schools and our universities.
The original piece by Jacquelyn Thorbjornson lamented the lack of news coverage, which though true from one perspective, isn’t from most. As I pointed out, there was a lot of coverage in the D.C. area, including by national media based there. Perhaps the author was right that it didn’t make national news on many of those sources. That said, rape and sexual violence is happening at schools, even middle schools and high schools, often without making national news. I agree — I’d like to see all of these cases make national news, regardless of who the perpetrator or victim is.
Sexual misconduct is a big deal, and we need to be shining a brighter light on this epidemic. Did you know that 44 percent of reported sexual assaults take place before the victim is 18? Or that one in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused prior to leaving high school?
This past Thursday, a teacher was arrested on sexual assault charges in North Dakota, and three days before, students from a North Carolina high school were accused and facing charges for sexual assault. And that’s just what I found from local news articles from a quick Google search for “sexual violence in high schools.”
From Googling these stories, none of them made national news. The columnist is right that there is media bias, but there is bias against treating sexual violence as a major issue instead of media bias. She contrasts the Maryland high school case with the Brock Turner case, which did receive a lot of media attention. In that case, the media attention was caused by the convicted student athlete’s light sentence and the victim’s willingness to speak out, albeit anonymously, as another respondent highlighted.
But let’s acknowledge the reality — most cases of sexual violence are not reported by the national or even local media. There is a systematic neglect of issues of sexual violence because, in many ways, sexual violence has been normalized and ignored like many issues that disproportionately affect women or other marginalized people.
And that systemic neglect is the problem at hand here. It’s not some niche issue of liberal media ignoring rape cases when the media does not want to criticize the culprits for being undocumented immigrants. After all, The Washington Post is liberal and it covered this case quite a bit.
So, yes, like that columnist, I am outraged about the lack of coverage. But it is not just about the neglect of this case — it is for all cases of sexual violence.
The irony of this debate about coverage hit its peak for me last week. My news feed exploded again. Another sex offense. This time at my alma mater high school. The head of security had sex with a 17-year-old; among other things, he is charged with “being in a supervisory position and having sex with a minor who was enrolled at a school where he worked.”
I know the man charged. He worked there when I was there. He was always there in the main hallway, going up to students who were roaming the halls during class as his job entailed. The national news hasn’t picked up on this story. They probably won’t.
I don’t expect a cry from conservatives to remove security officers from schools as there was with undocumented immigrants for the other Maryland sexual assault case. But I’ll be waiting, outraged about it all.
Marni Morse is a politics major from Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.