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Erin’s Law forum teaches freshmen an important lesson

Freshmen+English+classes+learn+about+the+definition+of+sexual+assualt+and+consent+during+the+Erin%27s+Law+Forum.+April+18%2C+2017.
Freshmen English classes learn about the definition of sexual assualt and consent during the Erin's Law Forum. April 18, 2017.

Freshmen English classes learn about the definition of sexual assualt and consent during the Erin's Law Forum. April 18, 2017.

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Staff Photographer

Freshmen English classes learn about the definition of sexual assualt and consent during the Erin's Law Forum. April 18, 2017.

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On Tuesday, all freshmen headed to the South Gym to attend the Erin’s Law Forum. Erin’s law aims to inform students and teachers about sexual assault, sexual abuse, and consent. This was the goal for English and Health department chairs, Kevin Poduska and Lauren DeAngelis.

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Mr. Kevin Poduska, Engish department chair, engages students in a Q&A about the moral and ethical problems of a recent Facebook Live case. April 18, 2017.

“Erin’s law is a state mandate so we have to have it in the curriculum,” said Lauren DeAngelis, P.E. department chair. “We thought this forum was a different way to engage the students in an interdisciplinary type of unit. It was also a good merge between the curriculums of Health and your English classes. The students got the chance to not only being lectured at but being apart of it to really explore the different topics we’re talking about.”

Many freshmen took to this well. One of them was Samantha Ray, who liked the way that the presentation was done.

“I think that the best thing about it was how much the teachers stressed that “no” means no,” Ray said. “Also, the fact that they had stories up so we could read them was really awesome because it didn’t feel like some assembly that nobody cares about; you could see yourself in the situation and it made it so much more real.”

Freshmen apply definition of sexual assault and consent to recent and current cases during Erin’s Law Forum. April 18, 2017.

Ray wasn’t the only one that found the presentation insightful; freshman, Alvin Zachariah, agrees.

“Overall I thought that the Erin’s law presentation was good and really insightful,” said Zachariah. “The stories that they shared with us made you understand that sexual assault is a serious topic.”

While he liked the forum, Zachariah also had some concerns about the lack of male cases represented in the exhibits.

“One thing I didn’t like was that they didn’t have as many stories on men [who have been sexually abused]. I think it’s important for a lot of boys to read because they wouldn’t be able to understand what sexual assault would be for them.”

Zachariah’s criticism is not necessarily an issue with the planning of York’s forum but more of a larger problem with the number of cases reported by males in general.

“Exhibit 2 was two male victims,” DeAngelis said. “The reason why you can’t find a lot of them is because a lot of males do not report them. It’s more or less because they don’t want to be ridiculed or they’re embarrassed, and that’s what the one exhibit really conveyed. For the exhibits we were trying to get a variety.”

Staff Photographer
Freshmen circulate through the South Gym, responding to a number of recent or current sexual assault cases during the Erin’s Law Forum. April 18, 2017.

Some students also questioned the necessity of the forum, claiming it was something they should already know. However, many students felt the definition of consent and the number of sexual assualt cases were eye-opening and informative.

“A lot of people find that the Erin’s law assembly might have been boring or unnecessary, but it’s important because sexual abuse is a real issue, said Jacky Cyriac, freshman. “It’s important that people are informed and know how to speak up if this were happening to them. It’s a serious issue that the student body needs to know about.”

Teachers understand that some students are more aware than others, but they point to the large number of sexual assault cases as evidence that not all students understand their rights or the rights of others.

“I think that may be true for some people, but again sometimes that can just be a defense mechanism of being uncomfortable with discussing the various topics, DeAngelis said. “Its unfortunate people think it’s “common sense” because you look at all the cases and have to get that it can happen to anybody. It’s the same thing as drugs, sex, things we talk about in health — it seems like common sense, but as teenagers, you’re still developing and finding your identity. It’s possible that bad choices are made.”

 

 

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