Dear Seattle School Board President Peaslee,

Hi. My name is Caitlin, and we’ve never been introduced. I was at the protest on Tuesday during your Board meeting. But don’t panic! I come in relative peace, meaning in this context that I am actively choosing to assume “rampant misunderstanding” on your part as opposed to “terrible choices.” I am here to give you an out.

Being part of the protest group and hearing your comments on Tuesday, I feel like we’re talking at cross-purposes. Ships in the dialectical night. So I wanted to clarify the position of the protesters for you – OK, not all of the protesters. Me. My position. It’s possibly shared. Could be a good starting point for you.

When you repeatedly return your statements to a place of defending the male student involved in the November 2012 incident, I am sure you are doing so to prevent further harm to the students in your care. Perhaps it seems to you like protesters are present because of this one male student, and we won’t rest until he personally is held accountable. Perhaps you think we are legitimately confused about how laws and language work (don’t worry, we’re not. Glad to clear that up for you). Perhaps our signs look like pitchforks under fluorescent lighting. That would totally be scary. I get you not being down with that.

The thing is, that’s totally not the point. I’m not there to protest the lack of legal conviction, or public punishment, of any student. I’m there to protest what I see as an inadequate response from the school administrators and the Board itself regarding policies that should have prevented this incident in the first place. I am protesting the lack of obvious changes to prevent incidents like it happening again. I am protesting what seems like a lack of internal outrage in the school system when November 2012’s unfortunate incident (can I call it that? legally?) came to light.

What I want you to understand is that for those of us who have been assaulted, or had friends or family members assaulted, or ever empathized with a victim of assault, your statements rub salt in an open wound. It is this wound that prevents women from reporting their rapes by concerning themselves more with the welfare of their assailants than themselves. It is this wound that bled when reporters covering the Steubenville sentencing lamented the loss of bright young futures–those of the male athletes who publicized their victim’s pain, not the traumatized girl’s.

By repeatedly returning the conversation to the legal standing of the male student, you are not only the only voice in the room continuing to address his personal involvement, but actively contributing to a culture that shames victims into silence.

Please rethink your comments of Tuesday afternoon. You have an opportunity–one that your colleagues at the meeting seem to have grasped–to make some incredibly beneficial changes in the way the School Board handles issues of harassment and assault. Keep the narrative focused where it needs to be, on schools and learning and the education of students and staff.

If you have any questions about how to respectfully address this issue, I know a lot of people who would be happy to work with you.

Sincerely,
Me, who you will probably see again, holding another sign.