Performing Activism to Prevent Rape: Feminist Pedagogy in Rape Prevention Education Programs for High School Aged Girls

Before transitioning into college where incidents of date rape skyrocket, young women trained in rape prevention techniques are better prepared for the challenges of college life. Many college aged young women do not recognize behavior that may lead to dangerous situations, which is why colleges offer necessary and helpful programming for their students, like theatre based improvisational programs designed to raise awareness about sexual harassment or sexual assault. These programs point to the necessity of mentoring and educating younger women about rape and sexual assault before they reach the “traditional” college age. Feminist rape prevention education uses feminist pedagogy to mentor young women to actively interrupt the (pre)scripted role of women as sex objects or victims, and gives them tools to help their peers do the same. Project H.O.W.-Healthy Outlooks for Women’s location in the rural mid-west makes it an interesting case study because “feminist” young women work against a local culture concentrated with conservative religiosity and patriarchy. Project H.O.W., though, helps young women develop the tools to recognize many of the ways in which their roles as women are already scripted. Through classroom discussions and lab research sessions, to planning a sexual assault survivor art show with mentors from the local university, and finally to self-organizing the Clothesline Project on the local high school campus, the women of Project HOW learned about rape and how to recognize social symbols that promote women-as-victims in culture at large. Through feminist pedagogy young women in a rural town developed the personal confidence to confront sexism and deploy (within their various subcultures) rape prevention educational techniques; in essence, Project HOW women learned to help themselves and their peers move away from playing a passive “feminine” role toward embracing feminism as an agential means of raising awareness about and preventing rape. Feminist mentoring programs for high school (and junior high school) aged women are significantly important, because the young women have not yet reached the critical age of 18-30 where women are raped at alarmingly high rates—necessitating prevention programs in the college setting; furthermore, young people are increasingly taught abstinence only-until-marriage through morally conservative pedagogy in their high school educational settings. Feminist agitation is not part of the current high school curriculum; therefore, feminist driven rape prevention programs, like Project HOW, are developed through the local women’s shelters where young women learn to raise awareness about rape in a community of their peers, thus, prospectively preventing future rapes and becoming active agents against sexism in the culture at large. Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams 2451 East 10th Street Bloomington, IN 47408 cthomasw@indiana.edu 812-857-0760 Gender Studies

Doctoral Student Indiana University Bloomington Chris Martin cmshelter@eoni.com 541-963-7226 Sexual Assault Response Advocate Shelter from the Storm Domestic Violence Shelter

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