School newspaper publishes rape story, principal tightens editorial control

At Fond du Lac (Wis.) High School last month, student journalist Tanvi Kumar’s article about the student body’s casual attitude toward rape included three victims of sexual assault at the school, a visit to an an abuse treatment center, and included evidence which she said showed the blame-the-victim culture.

“I’ve been assaulted multiple times in my life,” Emily, a current Fond du Lac High School student, states matter of factly, “ranging from not wanting to have sex anymore, just not being in the mood, and being pressured, to flat out rape.” She wastes no time telling her story. She has had ten years to process the abuse inflicted upon her and finds a sense of power in blatantly speaking about it. She rarely uses euphemisms or allows room for imagination in her accounts of the events. It is clear that Emily has no intention of being rendered a victim but rather a survivor of sexual abuse.

From the ages of 2 to 7, Emily was molested by her uncle.

“The sexual acts varied from fingering to exposure, fellatio, and full-on penetration,” she said. “There were many times when it was painful, other times where it was even pleasurable physically, but oftentimes it was more painful than anything. I felt like there was something that wasn’t right, but I never spoke up or said no. At the time, it felt like a huge burden of guilt. I thought it was supposed to make me feel good, about myself.” Her grandmother was aware of the ongoing abuse but never did anything to protect her. Emily, too, stayed silent for fear of being blamed.

It passed the read-through by the class adviser, but now the school’s principal has reimplemented an old school board policy that requires all stories to go through the principal.

When they protested earlier this month, the school superintendent told the students they’d done nothing wrong, although James Sebert emailed the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with some concerns.

Sebert said the rape culture article and an editorial in the same issue informing students of their right not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance raised questions in his mind. Sebert said he also took issue with a photo on the magazine’s first page, which showed a female student bare-shouldered, lying amid cardboard boxes and covered by a poster.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote in an emailed statement. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. (Prior review) is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.”

Kumar says she wrote the story because a Twitter account at school seemed to poke fun at rape.

“I always knew this would be a controversial article,” one of the anonymous rape victims in the article said, “but I hope people see good in it rather than how it is tainted by the administration. Being silent should be a choice, not a requirement.”

The students plan to protest at a school board hearing tonight.