|Photo from www.nomeansnoworldwide.org|
It has been a rather long time since I was in school. It has been even longer since my grade school sex-ed class that was a little more than lacking in information. For instance, by the time the class was finished, I still did not understand the mechanics of sex. My mom was bending over the bathtub with Ajax and a scrub brush washing away hard water stains when she told me, (nevermind....might have young readers).
And I ran away in tears, horrified.
Even though I am now 34 years old and out of touch with kids these days, I know that their sex education hasn’t gotten a whole better since my school days. Perhaps the most important thing missing is the conversation needed about rape and consent and what it means to molest someone, or use social media to virtually molest someone? What would happen in boys were taught at a very young age what rape was, how it happens, and what it means if he were ever to carry out such a horrendous act? What if a school-aged girl learned that there was absolutely nothing she could do to make rape excusable? What if she was taught simply ways to physically protect herself from an attacker? Would rape culture shrink away?
Yet, this is happening in the nation of Kenya. Why not here?
Kenya is a developing nation. America is a super power. Kenya is plagued with drought and food shortages, extreme poverty and poor access to public education. America, again, is a super power. We’re rich. We’re well fed. We have social programs to assist our poverty stricken, and education is free through high school. So how is Kenya changing the statistics of rape, something that 1 out of 4 Kenyan girls once faced?
Well, with education, of course.
Right now, in school in Nairobi, the capitol and largest city in Kenya, young girls are being taught self-defense in order to physically ward off attackers. The program No Means No Worldwide is providing the young girls with value and understanding that there is nothing they can do, wear, say, or be that should allow a boy or man to assault and rape them. But they’re not just teaching the girls, but the boys as well. Before the training, boys were under the impression that it was okay to attack and rape a girl if she was out after dark, dressed proactively, or he had spent a lot of money on her. Your Moment of Truth, the program tailored specially for the males, began to teach boys as young as secondary school about sexual violence and the implications it has on them and the women around them.
The No Means No program is only six weeks long, but studies show that it is leaving a lasting impact on the young men of Nairobi who are now more likely to intervene if they see a girl being assaulted. This is relatively new programing, with 2017 being the first year in which all school in Nairobi will begin the intervention programs. Until now, Kenya has had a terrible track record when it comes to rape culture and women’s rights. But what about us? What is the U.S. doing in our own nation and public school system?
Compared to Nairobi? Not much.
It would be naive of us to assume that rape is a bigger issue in a developing nation such as Kenya. According to the Rape Treatment Center located in Santa Monica, California, 1-6 women experience rape with 60% of those women being under the age of 18. In fact, here in the U.S., a rape is reported every five minutes—which is remarkable considering it’s the most unreported crime. Yet, only 19 states are exploring any form of training in their public schools about healthy sexual relationships. Today, the only state that has implemented any sort of rape prevention education has been California (which does not put this program into effect until 2017), requiring all public schools to apply Yes Means Yes to the sex education.
So what’s holding the rest of the country from following California’s lead? Religious abstinence groups have declared they fear any preventive measure will cause students to feel it’s okay to have sex. It doesn’t seem to matter that the U.S. Education Department investigated 53 sexual violence cases in elementary and secondary schools in more than 2 dozen states last year.
When it comes to sexual education and rape prevention, the United States might be a developing nation, equal to or moreso than Kenya. After all, we are the nation that allowed Brock Turner to serve less than 3 months for a convicted rape. In Kenya, a rapist is sometimes sentenced to cut the grass. We certainly aren’t missing the mark by much.
America, the land of the free and the brave…
Who desperately needs Nairobi’s No Means No program in our school systems.