Last updated on November 22, 2023
Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, The Los Angeles Times Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Ann Kotsi from Ukraine with the mentorship of Laila Mayfield from the United States. “Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice”.
It was a typical teenage party—loud music, laughter, and games of “truth or dare.” I doubt a single thought crossed the mind of a young girl, approximately fifteen years old, that boys were inappropriately discussing her body right at that moment. l thought I’d die from disgust. They didn’t even know her name.
l couldn’t stay silent anymore. I remember approaching them with enraged determination.
“Do you know that what you were just describing is called ‘rape’? Doesn’t it bother you?”
The boys started laughing like crazy. “We just want to have some fun, don’t we guys? Besides, it is unfair since it’s so much easier for a girl. As for us… let’s just say the world is much crueler for us.”
“Yeah, definitely true. Why can’t you just relax sometimes and stop caring about this nonsense?”
Many teenagers struggle with issues similar to this one, but the most terrifying thing is — no one talks about it as much as they should. Young adolescents are even assaulted by other teenagers, and they often do not come forward because, in their minds, it is a terrible shame. But who puts this ridiculous idea into their heads? What makes them think they have even the slightest thing to be ashamed of?
According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report, sex education in primary education is compulsory in 68% of countries and 76% of secondary education. And although these statistics are high, the numbers can be deceptive. A lot of these sexual education measures do not provide the comprehensive information many kids and teenagers require, instead teaching them only the very basics of contraception, which may be necessary but does not provide a strong understanding of how to react to assault.
The cycle has yet to be broken. We have been taught that assault is shameful and that people should not allowed to freely talk about it. We have been humbled by our society and imprisoned in that unrealistic world that only makes us suffer from things such as rape and abuse, especially when it concerns teenagers. Teens are only starting their life journey, but they can easily get hurt without the proper knowledge and guidance.
As Common Sense Media finds, at least 73% of teenagers receive their “sexual education” from pornographic websites, which leads to inaccurate understandings. Teenagers often feel lost and insecure about the topic. They are ashamed and afraid. This fact itself can already ruin someone’s life.
Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped lying and took the matter into our own hands?
But what could we possibly do? You may wonder. The most important thing would be to discuss and address these topics in our society openly. There is nothing to be ashamed of. As united, like-minded people, we can be unstoppable and make some really big changes if we just put our minds and actions into it.
Secondly, l strongly suggest schools, parents, and other educational organizations share some real-life experiences with kids and teenagers without making them sound uncomfortable. Make it normal for teens to learn about sex and assault outside the pornographic context. It is our mission, as people who care about each other and want to make some real-life changes, to open our eyes and act!