Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Change needed in sexual violence conversation

To the editor:

Like others, I am shocked and outraged about the recent rash of events related to sexual violence that have hit the headlines — the Sandusky tragedy, the alleged gang-rape at UMass, the alleged rape at Amherst College. But, outrage alone is not enough. We must go further.

Just as health is more than the absence of disease, sexual health is more than the absence of consequences like sexual violence. These events present an opportunity for community conversation about what we want to promote with respect to our intimate relationships, not just avoid.

What does it mean to act with integrity in our sexual and intimate lives? What do we want to teach our young people about healthy relationships and healthy sexual relationships? Could we find some consensus on a set of principles or values that might guide our sexual behavior? These are not easy questions. These would not be easy conversations.

But unless we take this on, the void will continue to be filled by exploitative media such as Internet porn on the one hand, and puritanical secrecy on the other. Given the media sex onslaught, is it really so surprising that a group of teen boys are more interested in proving their manhood to each other than respecting the wishes of a vulnerable young woman? Given the simultaneous silence about sex, is it so surprising so few people could find the words — for 10-plus years — to speak up about a pedophile repeatedly molesting children?

Here’s an idea. How about the Gazette sponsor a writing contest? Question: What does the term sexual integrity mean to you? There could be three categories for people to enter: senior high students, college students and adults. Winners could get prize money and their essays published in the paper. That would be turning our outrage into action.

Steve Brown

Amherst

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