Book club works to raise sexual assault awareness

Nuanced conversations spark activism and self-reflection

Keely Carolan, Copy Editor

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From the tense political climate to issues within our own community, sexual harassment is a matter that has been at the forefront of our attention for some time now. Addressing the way that we handle these issues is something that has been lacking not only in our society, but especially in our education system. Senior Nell Baker is on her way to change that.

 

Upon recommendation from librarian TuesD Chambers, Baker began reading the book titled “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” by Jon Krakauer. Reviewing multiple cases of rape on campus, the book discusses the stories of victims and their families, along with legal actions that are taken in such cases (or not).

Nell Baker, 12

 

“Within less than the first chapter, I was telling her that I wish we did more work studying this. I think it’s something that’s really important,” Baker said. “It’s the same kind of thing like, why do I need to know these types of math equations and stuff when this here is real life problems that, especially going into college next year, is really scary for a lot of people.”

 

Starting just by recruiting people that she knew, word quickly spread about the club and it grew week by week. With the ever-increasing student participation and hefty homework load that many participants face, keeping up with a reading schedule became difficult, according to Baker.

 

“I started just saying to them, ‘Work your way through it, read what you can, and if there’s something that you want to talk about in the book, we can definitely talk about it,’” Baker said. “But it’s more something to keep in the back of your mind of like, ‘Now I’m really emotional about reading this book because it’s very graphic and hard to read,’ and hopefully it inspires people to have deeper conversations.”

 

The club’s objective is to raise awareness about sexual harassment and encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone. Talking about intensely personal issues like this isn’t always easy, but providing a space where people feel comfortable to discuss freely is an important first step.

My main goal is to definitely allow people to have these conversations that make them uncomfortable, and carry these ideas with them wherever they go.”

— Nell Baker, 12

 

“I would say my main goal is to definitely allow people to have these conversations that make them uncomfortable, and carry these ideas with them wherever they go,” Baker said. Overall, she has gotten encouraging feedback from participants on how the club has inspired them.

 

“After one of the meetings, one of the male junior guys in the book club…he sent me a really long text about how he’d been doing a lot of self-reflecting through this book about toxic masculinity, what his life looks like and how it’s affected him, how now because of this conversation he feels that he doesn’t have to prove as much to society, and about how he’s becoming more okay with his vulnerabilities and stuff like that,” Baker said. “So it’s been really eye-opening to know the difference that I’m making–especially for the male students, because the female students, you’re always told that you’re at risk for stuff like this. So to have teenage boys open up like this and be vulnerable, I think that’s a really important step.”

 

What started as a small club of students wanting learn more about the topic has since blossomed into multiple projects for Baker, making changes within the community to help resolve this issue. Baker recently spoke about the importance of introducing the topic of consent culture and sexual assault awareness into school curriculums at a school board meeting. She will also be presenting on the same topic at a UW conference called iYouth, in hopes that other schools will start using a curriculum she has designed to educate students and teachers on the subject matter.

Baker would like people to know that if they are looking to learn more about the topic or help contribute to assemblies and other projects, they may contact her via email at [email protected].

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