Katie Koestner Speaks About Sexual Assault, Consent

kostner

Katie Koester spoke to the Northwood School community in early November

Sexual assault is a major topic of discussion at private boarding schools like Northwood School and on college campuses across the country. Why aren’t we talking about it at Northwood? Wednesday, November 2nd, Northwood School started the discussion by welcoming Katie Koestner as part of a speaker series.

Koestner came to talk about her personal experience with sexual assault. Koestner was on the cover of Time magazine at 18 because she spoke out about being sexually assaulted during her freshman year of college. She is the subject of an HBO film titled “No Visible Bruises: The Katie Koestner Story”, and she currently travels to high schools and colleges around the country to discuss her story and the issues surrounding it.

With the discussion of such a topic came the discovery of a recent article in the Boston Globe titled, “Private Schools, Painful Secrets,” investigated by the Globe’s legendary Spotlight team. The article vocalized the subject of sexual assault on private school campuses in  New England and told the stories of hundreds of private school students who were sexually abused by school staffers at sixty-seven New England prep schools.

Considering Koestner’s talk and the prevalence of sexual assault at New England preps one asks: “What is our school doing to make sure we don’t end up among the schools on the Globe’s list of bad actors?” Linda D’Arco, Northwood’s Dean of Faculty, noted that before school started all faculty and staff received training about sexual harassment. She also said that “there are a lot of things that we do and that become a part of our school culture [to prevent this]. One of those things is the setting of policies regarding sexual harassment and misconduct in the school handbook, which has been updated this fall.”

The School’s current sexual harassment policy is as follows:

Northwood School Policy of Sexual Harassment

The School strives to maintain a learning and working environment free of sexual harassment and intimidation. Sexual harassment of or by any board member, parent, administrator, faculty member, employee, student or guest is prohibited.

Sexual harassment can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • an unwanted physical advance or verbal approach of a sexual nature
  • subtle or overt pressure for sexual involvement
  • unwanted reference to one’s physical appearance, sexuality or to sexual activities
  • unwanted physical contact
  • the demand for sexual favors accompanied by implicit or explicit threats against one’s job security or success
  • any comments or actions which denigrate a person based upon gender
  • unsolicited sexual gestures or comments or the display of offensive, sexually  graphic materials; or where such conduct above interferes with a person’s performance or creates a “hostile, intimidating or offensive” work or  learning environment.

While Northwood hasn’t had high profile issues with sexual assault or harassment in the past, the School must be vigilant and provide students and staff with the necessary education to prevent sexual misconduct. Koestner’s presentation is a good first step but shouldn’t necessarily be the only one. The school seems to be doing a great job with sexual harassment training and education for the faculty, but in order to make sure sexual assault doesn’t become an issue among students is to discuss it with them and make sure that they know that sexual assault is never okay under any circumstances and they are taught about consent and proper way to give and receive it.

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