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SHAPE Club Presents Second Annual Embrace Your Voice Week

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SHAPE club members hard at work preparing for Embrace Your Voice Week.

SHAPE club members hard at work preparing for Embrace Your Voice Week.

Ella Roach

Ella Roach

SHAPE club members hard at work preparing for Embrace Your Voice Week.

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Last week, from October 15 through October 19, MHS students learned about the issue of sexual harassment and assault by watching presentations, playing Kahoots, and participating in discussions during Middleton’s second annual Embrace Your Voice Week.

Embrace Your Voice Week was presented by Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Education (SHAPE) club, which was founded this school year by juniors Carter Brutosky and Katie Joslyn. The two founded SHAPE club after they worked on a group project in Communication Studies class together that asked students to identify and then brainstorm a solution to a problem they saw in the school. “We noticed a lot of our friends dealing with sexual harassment, and we’d heard stories of sexual assault at Middleton; we’d heard stories of nothing happening, and we were like . . . let’s [try to] fix it,” Brutosky said.

SHAPE club started Embrace Your Voice Week on Monday with a presentation in the PAC during both advisory periods. Brutosky and Joslyn shared some statistics and quotes from a sexual harassment survey that SHAPE club sent out to Middleton students. They reported that when asked “Have you ever witnessed sexual assault/harassment in real life?,” 54.1% of respondents said “Yes” or “Maybe.” In addition, when asked “Have you ever been sexually assaulted/harassed?”, 50% of survey respondents answered “Yes” or “Maybe.” Of those respondents, 82.7% did not report or alert anyone to the incident.

SHAPE club members conducted the survey in the days leading up to the presentation. They sent out the poll on their various social media accounts, asking MHS students to take the survey. In the end, they had 146 respondents, of which 78.8% were female and 52.75% were juniors. The data of this survey could be skewed because of the much higher number of female respondents and the select group of people that saw the blasts on their social media to take the survey.

Regardless of the survey’s validity, Brutosky and Joslyn made one thing very clear – there have been many students in our high school who have experienced or witnessed sexual assault, both in the high school and the wider world. Joslyn read one quote that said, “I was assaulted by a guy in the same grade at my school. He grabbed my arms and dragged me under a staircase. Still holding my arms, he tried to kiss me, but I leaned away so he couldn’t. He slapped my butt and finally, I was able to break away and go back to class. This is one that I didn’t report. I reported another time a similar thing happened.”

After the survey results were shared, SHAPE club members Mia Burkholder and Macy Skubal took the stage to deliver a speech titled “Dear MHS.” In the speech, they went back and forth addressing various problems they saw at our high school relating to sexual assault, such as toxic masculinity, rape jokes, cyber-harassment, and catcalling. Every time one of the girls spoke, they started by saying “Dear MHS.”

In an interview, Burkholder and Skubal, both freshman, said that they wanted to give this speech because they have both experienced some form of sexual harassment and wanted to educate the other students about this issue.

The girls explained why they chose a spoken letter format for their speech. “We thought that especially when you give examples of things that have happened at our school in a situation or like environment more familiar to home, then, like, people are going to take it a lot more seriously. So ‘Dear MHS’ was something that was very close to home,” Skubal said. Burkholder added to that, saying, “[People are often] looking on a large scale and they’re thinking ‘this doesn’t affect me,’ but when you’re talking about things directly happening in our school they feel more connected to it.”

Ella Roach
SHAPE club members hard at work preparing for Embrace Your Voice Week.

On Tuesday, teachers were recommended to play a Kahoot containing sexual harassment statistics with their advisory classes. The Kahoot, created by SHAPE club members, also came with a list of questions for the teacher to ask their class, such as, “What is the difference between a bystander and an upstander?” and,  “Who are some people in the building you could contact in the event of harassment or an assault?”

On Wednesday, a speaker trained by the Rape Crisis Counselor was scheduled to give an advisory speech about body positivity and acceptance, but the speaker canceled immediately prior to the presentation, forcing SHAPE club to cancel the advisory event.

On Thursday, advisories participated in The Clothesline Project, where students decorated paper T-shirts with messages of support, hope, and strength. The paper shirts are currently hanging in the windows of the Student Services office so students can see the messages as they enter school.

Embrace Your Voice Week concluded in the PAC during both advisory periods on Friday, where actors performed two skits. The first skit featured a boy asking a girl for nudes over text. The girl told the boy online that she did not give consent and blocked his phone number. The second skit took place at a party where a boy and a girl flirted all night as they drank alcohol. At the end of the party, the boy asked the girl to come home with him,  and she said no. The boy then tried to force her to go home with him when the girl’s friend stepped in and told the boy that no means no. A school counselor hosted a talk-back after each skit, describing to the audience what the definition of consent was and how it applied to various situations they might find themselves in.

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Middleton High School | 2100 Bristol Street, Middleton, Wisconsin
SHAPE Club Presents Second Annual Embrace Your Voice Week