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Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable

By Editorial Board

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The administration arranged for community educator Cheryl Banks to speak to the student body yesterday about preventing and avoiding sexual assault. The students were divided by gender in order to deliver different messages to boys and girls.

Banks highlighted an important message: we must all bear the consequences of our actions and we have a moral obligation as members of our communities to stand up to stop sexual abuse. The prevalence of rape and sexual assault and the culture of rationalization and tolerance for abuse is a sinister aspect of our culture that needs to change.

Some members of the boys’ audience, however, didn’t seem to get the message. After nearly every comment from Ms. Banks came a cacophony of jeers, cheers, and, above all, clapping. Ms. Banks would recount the most horrific stories and, as regular as clockwork, a round of applause would follow. While the clapping died down during the second half of the assembly, it seemingly set the tone for the rest of the discussion.

Put simply, this behavior is unacceptable. The boys clapping were disrespectful not only to Ms. Banks, but also to all women, and indeed even men. When discussing something as serious as sexual assault and rape, mockery and jeering are not acceptable responses. When students trivialize the issue by acting in such a manner, they retrench the poisonous culture we all want to change. These actions are an embarrassment to the school and reflect terribly on the student body Whitman prides itself upon.

During several classroom discussions following the incident, many boys said they felt like they were “unjustly accused” by the speaker. This criticism reflects prior biases and convictions and ignores her entire point: though the system may be unfair and biased, people should understand the potential consequences of their actions.

In the end, the rudeness in the male audience is the exact reason why we need such an assembly. A male culture that treats rape and sexual assault like a joke is the perfect breeding ground for even more violence. The very reason we held such an assembly was to try to raise awareness and reverse it: the disrespect shown in the boys’ assembly shows we have a long way to go.

Click here to read a news story about the assembly.

Video by Naba Khan and Jay Silver.

34 Comments

34 Responses to “Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable”

  1. 121 on November 20th, 2014 5:59 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Great article.

    [Reply]

  2. 1 on November 20th, 2014 6:55 pm

    I don’t think it was the mentality of the boys joking about rape, but more of a mob mentality, when one person clapping it just triggers a domino effect and so forth, regardless, it was unacceptable.

    [Reply]

    Jamie Wallace Reply:

    I’m guessing you’re a troll, but the ditorial board is composed of guys and girls, and they got the perspective of the group that’s adressed. The women’s section wasn’t adressed in the article because it didn’t need to be, we behaved ourselves and respected the speaker.

    [Reply]

    1 Reply:

    I’m not a troll, and I know who wrote this article. I was saying the clapping was that of a domino effect, one person doing it equates to others doing it and so forth. And the big guys in the fried groups trying to be cool and starting up the clapping to make themselves look good. You write this as all the boys disrespected the speaker , which isn’t the case either. Around me some, including myself, didn’t take part in the clapping.

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  3. Buster on November 20th, 2014 8:06 pm

    This is so unfair. Maybe get the boy’s AND girl’s opinions about what happened and actually include them in the article. Sheesh, this is pathetic…get two sides of a story and be good journalists. Disappointed in b&w. You say u hold urselfs to high standards journalistically, but u fall into the same trap regarding biases that the media imposes upon society today because they fail to report on all sides of the issue.

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    sarah Reply:

    I don’t understand how you can be so ignorant. I suppose someone who uses the letter “u” in replacement of the word “you” in a formal complaint is just so above everyone else that they have the right to be “disappointed in b&w”. How dare you call anything related to the issue of rape pathetic? Regardless of your irrelevant and idiotic comment, both boys and girls expressed concern over how disturbing the boys’ assembly was. The mob-like mentality that allowed so many boys to clap for stories about rape is the same mentality that allows people (yes, of both genders) to commit the crime itself. I just hope that a lesson can be learned from this and that everyone in the school will be more weary about mob-like mentalities. I also sincerely hope that the boys who clapped won’t become rapists, although it seems quite likely.

    [Reply]

    Buster Reply:

    yeah I mean Im clearly writing a “formal complaint.” Yo girl, u new to the internet? because comment sections are not formal. And you realize that the freshman were the ones who were clapping and they were not clapping about the topic they were just clapping because they thought it was funny be disrespectful to a speaker. And I am sorry, you’re right, I CLEARLY did call the issue of rape “pathetic” like you claim I did. Why dont you actually read what I said and try to understand the other side of the story instead of just outright attacking someone for expressing their opinion. SMH…gurl u mus’ be trippin’.

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  4. John Smith on November 20th, 2014 9:02 pm

    Was this article written by a boy or girl? If it was written by a boy, then they would have been present at the assembly and witnessed the clapping initiated by a bunch of juvenile underclassmen. It could very well be a defense mechanism when dealing with an uncomfortable topic such as this one. If it was a girl, then it is unfair to make such broad generalizations on an event you did not even witness firsthand. Second, the boys do not take this issue lightly. I think the vast, vast majority of male students know that sexual assault and rape are unacceptable. Although I do think the clapping was rude and unnecessary, the woman’s presentation was somewhat unjust and antagonizing. We, and I think the rest of the male students at Walt Whitman High School, understand the dire consequences and saw the assembly as sort of an insult to us. I do not need to be told to not sexually assault a woman. It is a ridiculous stretch to say that the disrespect shown at the assembly represents a male culture at Whitman that “treats rape and sexual assault like a joke”. One has nothing to do with the other; we are not the male population that needs to be prompted not to rape or assault a woman, let alone passively scolded for crimes committed by others in extremely different circumstances.

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  5. James Dean on November 20th, 2014 9:24 pm

    This was obviously a female who wrote the article it wasn’t a big deal

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    sara Reply:

    People not taking sexual violence seriously IS a big deal, and what perpetuates the problem. Also, there were black and whit reporters at both assembly’s so even if it was a girl who wrote this she was at the assembly and saw what happened. I’m actually disgusted and shocked that you had the nerve to make such an ignorant comment on this article. “This was obviously a female”!?! Should the girls (and boys) not be outraged at what some of the boys did during the assembly?

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    Desert Reply:

    how does the gender of the writer affect the credibility? it’s most definitely a big deal, that behavior was hugely disrespectful -feminist bro

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    Blue Waffle Reply:

    “Feminist bro”, there are girls who commit sexual abuse as well. Therefore using your logic, women can be a “poisonous snake” as well. Do not use double standards

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    sara Reply:

    yes women can be the offender. thats not the point we are making. we are not trying to downplay the fact that women abuse and that man get abused. all cases of sexual assault are horrible. BUT its undoubtedly true that a vast majority of cases involve a female victim. Im not saying the speaker was perfect i wasnt there but if she mostly talked to the boys about not raping women its becasue of the facts im sorry to say. if she made general comments and made you feel attacked sorry obviously not all men are sexual predators but too many are and she probably thought it would be most effective to talk to the boys about not being a perpetrator. Sorry if the generalizations “offended you” but the fact that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their life time (a vast majority of these cases by a male) offends me.

    Desert Reply:

    Yes, women can also be sexual predators and it’s a problem, just like with men. That’s why Ms. Banks told us as well to be careful when choosing who to have sex with. However, the prevalence of men as sexual predators far outweighs that of women. It’s important to be careful when choosing to have sex with someone of any gender, but the numbers simply mean that one most be more cautious in the presence of men.

  6. Ethan Jungreis on November 20th, 2014 9:31 pm

    i feel like it was mostly freshman

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  7. Blue Waffle on November 20th, 2014 9:47 pm

    I am proud to say I was one of these men. The speaker verbally abused us. Feminist based speakers are ignorant and rude to men, and I felt violated. She constantly attacked us and made us feel shameful.

    [Reply]

    Desert Reply:

    Have you considered the fact that you are a male in a patriarchal society and have an amazing amount of privilege. While you may not be a sexual predator, many men are. It’s important that women are protected. You might think “well not ALL men are rapists so women shouldn’t be scared”, buy the reality is: if you see a snake, it might be poisonous, so one must avoid all snakes just because of that. -feminist bro

    [Reply]

    Oliver Ades Reply:

    Ok, there are so many things wrong with this. The speaker did not verbally abuse anyone, and I’m very concerned that so many people think she did. The speaker was trying to educate the community on what COULD happen to you regardless of whether you are a sex offender or not. She never once tried to claim you anyone actually was one. And I hope no one is. But she did not verbally attack anyone, and regardless of what anyone thought she said, she still deserved respect.

    [Reply]

  8. Jason Grill on November 20th, 2014 10:00 pm

    When there is an event that may cause reader or viewer backlash great journalists and publications still report on it. Huge props to The Black and White for a necessary and well written article.

    [Reply]

  9. sara on November 20th, 2014 10:05 pm

    this is not funny at all. He is being charged with sexual assault. The fact that you think you can make a joke about this is really worrying. Clearly the assembly was necessary even though it did not get through to you. Do you understand how serious sexual violence is? you disgust me.

    [Reply]

    chiquitabanana Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUlSrp-RNSg

    [Reply]

  10. sarah on November 20th, 2014 10:07 pm

    This is in reply to BUSTER but it applies to others’ comments: I don’t understand how you can be so ignorant. I suppose someone who uses the letter “u” in replacement of the word “you” in a formal complaint is just so above everyone else that they have the right to be “disappointed in b&w”. How dare you call anything related to the issue of rape pathetic? Regardless of your irrelevant and idiotic comment, both boys and girls expressed concern over how disturbing the boys’ assembly was. The mob-like mentality that allowed so many boys to clap for stories about rape is the same mentality that allows people (yes, of both genders) to commit the crime itself. I just hope that a lesson can be learned from this and that everyone in the school will be more weary about mob-like mentalities. I also sincerely hope that the boys who clapped won’t become rapists, although it seems quite likely.

    [Reply]

  11. Toy Story 3 Was OK on November 20th, 2014 10:49 pm

    I bet it was the sophomores. Worst class I’ve ever seen

    [Reply]

  12. Murathan Sagir on November 20th, 2014 11:11 pm

    It’s sad that some people can’t take problems in society seriously. Can’t tell right from wrong. How are we going to improve the world during our generation ? Seems to me we took a step backwards…

    [Reply]

  13. J on November 21st, 2014 12:03 am

    As a male Whitman alum, I realize most of these comments are just dudes trolling. I get it, I was there. Regardless, and you’ll learn this in college the easy or hard way, sexual assault is nor will it ever be funny.

    Just read this article: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119

    Shattering girls’ lives isn’t funny.

    [Reply]

    chiquitabanana Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUlSrp-RNSg

    [Reply]

  14. Anna McGuire on November 21st, 2014 11:17 am

    Great article. Glad someone was willing to express their opinion.

    [Reply]

  15. James Bond on November 21st, 2014 11:28 am

    Clearly a girl sitting in at the boys assembly wrote this and does not understand how it felt to be on the otherside. I think the problem initially was having EVERY boy in the school in the same room at one time. Not at fantastic idea by the administration I must admit, but it doesn’t stop at just that. When one person starts clapping, another one does, until everyone one is clapping. Myself I clapped the first time, however after that I began to feel disrespectful and promptly stopped. Another issue was the tone of the speakers voice. Many male students, including myself, felt some what attacked by the tone of the speakers voice and what she was saying. When someone would ask her a question, she went on the offensive, attacking that person, immediatly proving him wrong then after he sat down, she told him to stand up and further humiliated him. I understand it is a difficult topic to speak about, but a mixed assembly would have been better, due to the fact the guys would not feel like they were being singled out. The tone of the speech made it seem like she was telling every guy in the room they were going to be a future rapist and it was their fault for every sexual assault that has ever happened, then in an attempt to redeem herself, she quietly muttered the phrase, “Remember it is gender neutral…”. Overall, the mood and the speaker itself caused this uproar not just the individuals in the audience. The guys have been singled out enough already, I find it very irresponsible of the school sponsored Black and White to further single us out. Thank You.

    [Reply]

  16. Ethan Jungreis on November 21st, 2014 1:42 pm

    why does everyone blame all the guys. most people werent doing anything

    [Reply]

  17. Matthew Jacobson on November 21st, 2014 3:17 pm

    Look. The bottom line is that sexual assault is inexcusable. If you haven’t read the article about the UVA rape, I suggest that you do, because it’s sickening and really eye-opening about the culture that has been created in America. However, to me, trying to pin the blame on a specific demographic only worsens the problem, and I think the “It’s on Us” campaign does a great job of not singling out anyone in regards to responsibility for stopping this.

    Their behavior may have been despicable and disrespectful, and that’s not OK. However, we can’t just keep on fighting each other and blaming each other because that way nothing gets done about this problem.

    [Reply]

  18. Tobin Bell on November 21st, 2014 3:24 pm

    The speaker accused none of us. She was speaking on a serious topic, and whether or not you choose to believe it, the stories she shared were aimed at helping us make good decisions. With regards to the behavior of the male audience, I was personally disgusted, insulted, and ashamed. In fact I excused myself halfway through because I could no longer tolerate the disrespect that “we” were giving to the presentation and the speaker. I know it wasn’t everyone. But it was a lot of people. Furthermore, I know that a lot of the people who were doing it were only doing it because their friends were there. I think so many teenagers feel compelled to pretend not to care about things when their friends are around, especially as a mechanism for distancing themselves from uncomfortable topics. I feel pressure to do it too sometimes. And I can’t blame anyone for that; it is an unfortunate product of not having to deal with these things very much, for the most part. But seriously, sexual abuse? Rape? When these topics do come up, and you are asked to listen to someone speak to you about them, show a little maturity. I have never in my life been more ashamed to be part of a group than I was to be part of that audience.

    [Reply]

    Blue Waffle Reply:

    Tobin Bell, please do not speak on the behalf of the whole male population. I felt verbally abused, and there are several others who agree. The speaker was obviously exaggerating to make her point. This type of uncivilized assembly made me feel uncomfortable, and I believe it was a big step back for the Whitman community

    [Reply]

    chiquitabanana Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUlSrp-RNSg

    [Reply]

  19. Blue Waffle on November 21st, 2014 4:34 pm

    I am MENINIST. I speak for the men who have been labeled and sterotyped throughout their life. I will stop this tragedy. As a brave soul in the Meninist community, I pledge to do whatever it takes to achieve justice.

    [Reply]

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Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable