Ms. Kate Zoller
“7% of CVU students reported experiencing being physically forced to have sexual intercourse by 12th grade in 2017 according to the schoolwide Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” reads the yellow Student Awareness, Change, & Training Committee (A.C.T.) flyer that hangs in various locations around CVU. This number, which may actually be much higher due to a possible lack of honesty on the survey, calculates out to around 93 students out of the entire CVU population, based on a school population of 1,322.
“[Student A.C.T.] want[s] to raise awareness within our community about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment because it is an issue that affects more people than we know about,” says Hannah Frasure, one of the student leaders of Student A.C.T. The purpose of Student A.C.T., Frasure says, is to garner awareness of the issue of sexual violence in the CVU community.
The approachableness of the subject is a struggle for society as a whole. “I believe that the club faces the same challenges that this issue faces outside of CVU: a public that knows a little about the issue of sexual violence, but due to a variety of factors, little is done to deal with this problem.” Smith believes that the unapproachableness of the subject is barring people from connecting with the topic and thus, preventing change from being made. Smith says, “I believe that the biggest obstacle we face is a society that trains our men and boys to be strong and take action and our women and girls to be kind and subservient. This leads to the objectification of women…” For Smith, solving the problem of sexual violence against women is addressing society’s gender roles, a feat he hopes to accomplish by holding classes during RISE that educate students on these gender roles.
Student A.C.T. was started in the fall of 2017 by a small group of CVU students, including Chiara Antonioli, Iris Mann, Ryan Trus, and Walter Braun. The club was supported by Chris Smith, Tim Trevithick, and Lacey Richards. Chris Smith says, “The club was the result of discussions I had with Chiara Antonioli. Based on a variety of conversations I had with her, I came to better understand that there was a significant problem in our society (and at CVU) regarding sexual violence against women.” Smith then talked to other students and found that the information given by Antonioli had not misrepresented the problem of sexual violence at CVU and in society.
According to Smith, “during the 2017-2018 school year, [the club] made presentations to 9th graders regarding this issue, made school-wide presentations, presented information about sexual violence in community forums, and hosted Cyndie Pierce, a national speaker, at CVU for a presentation to juniors and seniors.” Tim Trevithivk, CVU SAP Counselor and staff supporter of the Student A.C.T. Committee, reflected on the 2017-2018 Student A.C.T. group saying, “it started with passionate seniors… that was a powerful year.”
Trevithick also says that “last year, the students weren’t as passionate, and therefore the presence was less felt… the club was less out there.” Trevithick said that, as with any club, the faculty advisors try their best to “allow the students to take ownership of the club.” Therefore, the club’s presence changes from year to year, depending on what level of presence the students want the club to have that year.
“We felt the need to reestablish our presence in the school community and [putting up the posters] was our natural first step. We are hoping to have more members join our group,” Frasure says. In the past, students who wanted to be a part of Student A.C.T. had to apply and then be selected for the group in order to maintain their focus. Now, anyone who wants to join can go to a Wednesday Connect block meeting. This allows for students who are passionate about the club and its message to join the club to make a change.
Riley Masson, junior Student A.C.T. CoLeader, echoes this sentiment. He says that the club needs more people in order to reestablish its presence in the school. He says that the club is planning a schoolwide assembly to give information and logistics about the club to students. Masson also mentions that the club will be hosting trainings that will be open to the entire school population in January. These trainings will be 4 hours long on each weekend day and will focus on informing students on sexual violence. The club is also planning on doing more events and announcements to reinforce their presence in the school, according to Masson.
But, Masson also says, “the necessity has felt faded” because “things are looking a lot better.” Masson says that there is still room for improvement but Rally has been improving. The club got good feedback about student conduct at Rally this year and thus, has felt like the school climate has improved to a point that the club’s presence wasn’t needed as much as it was when the club first started.
The group, Frasure says, has goals of helping to change CVU’s policy on sexual assault. “I think everyone who’s in our group is here because we’ve seen how friends have been hurt and we want to fix that, while for some it may also be personal.”
Trevithick echoes Frasure’s sentiment on policy change. He details that educators are mandated reporters of sexual harassment, violence, and assault. Therefore, educators are required to report any instance of sexual harassment, violence, or assault that is reported to them. Their reports, according to Trevithick, go to school administrators and the school administrators deal with the report from there. Law enforcement may also be involved.
Trevithick says that sexual harassment, assault, and violence is complicated. This causes students to not trust the reporting process, Masson says. The school and state policies on sexual violence are vague. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of success stories, which causes students to have doubts about the effectiveness of reporting.
Masson also mentions that the policies that CVU has surrounding sexual assault and violence need to be changed. According to Masson, at CVU, if you hold a leadership position on a sports team or in a club and are found to be guilty of substance use, you will be barred from holding a leadership position on any sports team and club that you are a part of for the rest of your time at CVU. However, according to Masson, there is no zero-tolerance policy, like the one in play for substance use, for sexual assault. So, if a student is found guilty of a sexual assault, they can still hold a leadership position on their sports team and in a club that they’re in.
Frasure acknowledges the progressiveness of CVU, but also acknowledges CVU’s shortcomings. “Although CVU is unquestionably a more progressive school than most, students will experience sexual violence, and because it is such a taboo topic for many reasons, it generally goes unaddressed. So, that brings us to another purpose of our group, which is to advocate for policy measures that can better address the needs of victims within our district.”
Another goal of the group, Frasure says, is to make the topic of sexual assault and violence more approachable for younger students. “We also go around to ninth grade classrooms each year to give presentations to other students so that they may hear about these issues, not just from a teacher who it may feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with, but with their peers, whom they can ask questions to receive judgment-free answers. Especially when those questions might also be things that they are afraid could get them into trouble.”
Student A.C.T. wants to not only educate students on the issue of sexual violence but to change the policies surrounding it locally and statewide as well. But for Frasure, the club is about the bigger picture. “So our greater purpose, and what we ultimately hope to accomplish, is to play a small part in helping to make our community a better place. We want there to be lower rates of violence, but we also want students to treat each other with more kindness and sensibility,” Frasure says.