News From Masters

Students Engage in Panel Discussion on Consent and Sexual Assault
Posted 12/09/2016 01:00PM

Students, parents, faculty and staff addressed issues of consent and sexual assault – and how to intervene when encountering questionable behavior – during an informative panel discussion at the Fonseca Center on December 8.

The discussion followed a powerful and emotionally charged performance of Good Boys and True by Phoenix, Masters’ honorary drama society, in the Experimental Theater. Phoenix will present the play again tonight at 7:30 PM.

The drama centers on Brandon Hardy, an athletic and popular student at a boys’ school who is involved in a videotaped sexual assault. The tape’s discovery rattles his privileged life, and as the scandal unfolds, Brandon’s mother confronts unsettling truths about her son, herself and their life.

“The purpose of this program is not to villainize male athletes and athletics. Instead, the goal is to see athletes as strong allies in the fight against sexual assault. Athletes are not the problem. Athletes are part of the solution,” said Head of Upper School Matt Ives.

Masters’ Director of Counseling Stefanie Carbone underscored that point during Thursday night’s discussion. “It’s important not to focus only on athletes and fraternities because you’re missing an entire other community,” she said.       

Ms. Carbone was joined on the panel by Athletic Director Kevin Versen, senior Sam Coppola, director of the Phoenix play; Monica Sobrin, a Fordham University student and a representative of the advocacy organization It’s On Us; and Ariana Ceron from Victims Assistance Services, a local agency that provides a 24-hour hotline and other services for crime victims. 

It’s On Us focuses on educating students about consent, how to intervene when witnessing or suspecting a sexual assault, and how males can be strong allies against sexual assault by taking action when they hear misogynistic or other offensive comments. The organization has chapters on college campuses across the United States and is now expanding to high schools, Ms. Sobrin said.

Although the incident portrayed in Good Boys and True involves a male student abusing a female student, the panelists emphasized that sexual abuse does not discriminate based on gender.

Much of the discussion focused on ways in which people can help prevent such incidents.

Good Boys and True director Sam Coppola asked what kind of action a person should take if he or she is at a social event and witnesses a guest being forced or in another situation that seems wrong. 

“Always intervene,” Ms. Ceron replied. “Don’t think, ‘It’s not my business.’”

Mr. Versen said that when witnessing inappropriate behavior, “that’s when it’s on us as well. That’s when voices should be raised and action should be taken.”

The panel discussion was part of Masters’ continuing efforts to raise awareness about a variety of sensitive issues, including social justice, race, gender and diversity.

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