THE HIGH RATE of early school leaving among teenage rape victims has been highlighted by new research findings.Considering how often teen rape survivors face harassment in many different countries this outcome is not surprising.
The study reveals that of 18 students between the ages of 15-17 who went to the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre after being raped, 17 dropped out of school early.
A report will be published in the autumn from the Oireachtas study entitled Underachievement at Second Level – The Way Forward, but preliminary findings estimate that the national incidence of rape in the 15-18 age bracket in 2007 (the last available figures) was 373 with 362 of these cases occurring in the 15-17 age group.
Fine Gael Education and Science spokeswoman, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who is rapporteur on the report, says: “These figures are chilling, that’s almost one girl a day in the 15-17 age group who was raped during her secondary schooling. Our research shows that rape, where it happens, is a major cause of early school leaving.”
For many people, teens and adults, they can too easily justify wrongfully assuming that a girl who reported rape is a liar and treating her as such unless or until she can prove to their satisfaction that she was really raped.
The excuse is often, "a boy's (or man's) life is at stake." This excuse reduces the life and safety of women and girls into nothingness and is often used to justify actions the excusers acknowledge is real violence.
I'm sure some of those who make these wrongful assumptions will view a girl leaving school as proof of her guilt instead of realizing that this result comes from mistreatment which is too often psychological and even physical terrorism.
Even with legal proof, in the form of a conviction, that may not be enough for some people to stop vilifying the victim and to stop excusing the rapist because they buy into the lie that most rape victims are the cause of their own rapes and most rapists were haplessly lured like sailors into the rocks by the victim's siren song.
These stories of victims as liars and rapists as victims need to be pulled out like toxic weeds and those who nourish these weeds need to be held accountable for the harm they do to rape victims. Part of holding non-perpetrators accountable for harming rape victims means that schools which allow rape victims to be harmed should be sued and when there is evidence that they assumed the alleged victim's guilt or did nothing to stop peer harassment those schools should lose those civil lawsuits.
If people won't stop harmful behavior on their own then it may take imposing change from the outside for the harm to stop. Too frequently rape victims are treated as perpetrators only without the legal rights given to those accused of rape.
This behavior has been confirmed in one instance.
“In one case where we were fortunate that a victim of rape spoke to us, the school handled the whole incident very poorly. While the rape took place outside the school, they appeared to believe the boy more than the girl.This school may have made the common assumption that if they treat the boy who was accused as innocent until proven guilty that they must treat the girl who reported rape as guilty. This is sloppy thinking. The school can respect the boy's legal status while also respecting the girl's legal status as innocent.
“Only when the girl got a conviction did the school believe her, but by then she had left school.
“She had lost her friends and felt she had no choice but to move out of the area,” she explained.
For a school to have ethical policies all alleged victims need to be treated as real victims no matter what individuals in that school believe or assume about a particular case. If an alleged victim is accused by the police of filing a false police report that person must be given the same assumption of innocence as accused rapists get.