This last week has seen a veil lifted from the culture of silence surrounding males who are the victims of bullying, violent mob attacks and sexual assault.
The recent reports on the illicit student activities at St. Michael’s boys school in Toronto reminds us all to talk to our kids about being open and honest as to what’s going on in their lives, and keep the conversations going.
It’s been reported that charges of assault, gang sexual assault, and assault with a weapon have been laid against six students, aged 14-15 years old. These alleged assaults against fellow classmates came to light as video was uploaded to social media.Theres absolutely no spin you can put on this story to make it OK. It’s not about boys being boys, it’s not about tradition, and/or hazing. It’s brutal back-room savagery perpetrated in secret against the defenseless and fraught with threat and fear.
It breaks my heart for those vulnerable young men who just wanted to be accepted, but ended up hurt and broken. There’s also a lot we can learn from the current happenings and it’s important to share them with the younger people in your life.
First and foremost, you have a voice. Never be silent. This is so important. If you witness something, tell someone. A parent, a teacher, Auntie — someone. They’ll assist and help make decisions. A burden is much lighter when shared.
How sad is it that in the St. Michael incident, there were onlookers when someone was being assaulted. It wasn’t an isolated incident as there are several videos surfacing. I wonder about the young person who took the video. Did he take it as a way of telling the truth or was the thing just a spectacle or joke to share. Perhaps he was so thankful it wasn’t him being victimized that he’d forgotten the seriousness of what had just occurred. Either way, if you standby and do nothing, you’re complicit in the illegal behaviour and will be part of the criminal investigation, including having to testify as a witness. ‘
The incident above was discovered by the school administration because someone uploaded the video to social media. I spoke with RCMP Const. Dan Moskaluk about the sharing of explicit pictures or video and he states “not distributing the material is the first action of being against it.”
In regards to sharing, he further states, “if you receive any such material, you should consider reporting it to authorities, or a trusted adult and delete it. Do not, I repeat, do not share it. This could result in charges of distribution of child pornography which is a Criminal Code offense. You don’t want to go there. Put yourself in their shoes,” he further states. “Imagine if someone were sending pictures of you all over social media. Stop and think. Do the best to affect a positive change and, in this case, that is to never — repeat — never share any digital images like that.”
These lessons need to be discussed over and over again.
“When kids are in the car, they’re a captive audience,” says Moskaluk.“It’s a great time to reinforce things like don’t ever send sexual digital images, or it’s not OK to watch people get hurt and not act. Even when teens get their learners license, they need a parent in the car, so just keep talking. Keep repeating. It will get through to them.”
Action brings change and I would hope someday that the type of behaviour discussed today will be a thing of the past. Former students at St. Michael’s, now adult men, have come forward to say that the same thing happened to them many years ago. Bravo to those men who’ve stepped forward. When the culture of silence is uncovered, the power shifts. It’s time.
Unfortunately the lessons in life came too late for some of the current students of St. Michael’s but I hope the move is now toward honesty, safety and an open forum of reporting and discussing. Having young people in jail doesn’t solve the issue of the narsassistic behaviour that’s learned and maintained through a foundation of power built on secrecy and the fear of others. As Moskaluk says, “Change happens when people themselves affect the change by taking a stand.”
Please share this with young people. Make them aware. Remind them that sharing any type of sexual digital image that they receive could have them charged with distribution of child pornography. Repeat.
Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.fayeearcand.com.