Afternoon Jolt

No winner or loser today, just a jolt of reality culled from stats in a survey of Garfield high school students. 

Coverage of the Garfield High rape controversy has concentrated on a narrow cast of characters: the survivor, the accused, the parents, and---where a Cola guest op/ed urged us to keep the spotlight---Seattle Public Schools’ top administrators.

But what about the students, and their attitudes toward rape?

Last spring, Garfield High School students Sylvie Nemeth and Anna Duncan (both now college sophomores) used their AP Statistics class to investigate their peers’ attitudes toward rape. “There was kind of a ‘this-would-never-happen-here’ sort of attitude” among her peers toward sexual assault, Nemeth says, explaining why she felt compelled to do the survey.

Nine percent of male respondents thought that “provocative clothing” justified forced sex.

The results were disturbing: one out of ten students thought that rape was sometimes acceptable---for example, if the two people “are in love” or “have been dating for a long time.”

The survey also displayed a stark gender gap, with questions consistently finding young men more than twice as likely to think that “force[d]” sex was acceptable in certain circumstances. For example, 7 percent of male respondents thought it is “okay” for a man “to force” a woman to have sex if the woman is drunk or high, while only 2 percent of female respondents agreed. And 9 percent of male respondents thought that “provocative clothing” justified forced sex, while none of the female respondents did. In addition, respondents---especially men---vastly over-estimated the proportion of rape reports that are false.

The survey, according to its methodology section, sampled randomly selected classrooms at Garfield, collecting 119 responses---59 “male,” 59 “female,” and 1 “other.” You can see the full survey here.

What can the district do? Duncan suggests mandatory sexual assault education for students and staff. Nemeth says there should be district-wide surveys on attitudes toward sexual violence. "I think the results would be even more worrisome,” she says.



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