By disseminating these ‘rape scene’ photos, TDSB fails to live up to its role as a teacher to Canada’s youth

I know I’m not the only one who is shocked that the Toronto District School Board removed two teachers in September for sharing a photo of a supposed rape scene in a darkroom. The image depicted a naked woman, who looks to be around 20 years old, “in the throes of foreplay,” according to the National Post, “then violently resisted by a masked man about to forcibly rape her.”

It’s a hard image to look at: the blonde, primped woman lying naked on her side, gasping for air, unable to move. The question this raises is how does the TDSB feel about the way women have experienced such rape fantasies? How does it feel about the way women often struggle to identify with the depictions? How does it feel about the ways women may physically seek to exclude or minimize the scene in a way that tampers with the image?

Who is right here? It’s not really a question of morality. I don’t consider it a sin for adult men to receive and contemplate rape imagery as entertainment. In the society that I live in, some of these men may choose to try and give those images some cognitive distance. Their influence may feel more impactful if they direct or frame their inquiry outside of their own lives. What matters is what is the intent behind this art, the reason for sharing it and where is it put in terms of its impact.

The photo in question was posted to the educational social networking account 844B1Academy on Sept. 5, according to the Post. One teacher allegedly shared it with her husband and stated in the comment thread “I am really sorry about what I did and embarrassed and ashamed of myself for my poor judgement.” Another wrote “this all goes back to experience, I’ve dealt with some really horrible stuff in my life so this one has special meaning to me.” These comments regarding their own abuse has nothing to do with the content of the image, and everything to do with the context in which the image is displayed and transmitted. However, the wording of their comments seem to devalue the situation. They seem to say, “Yes, we are truly broken. Just know you are not alone.” This is not honest. The TDSB should trust its students and act accordingly.

Many mothers may have had the same experience as the woman in the picture. They are afraid to remember how it happened and fear the abuse and impact that it may have had on them or their children. Women go to great lengths to absorb and remove the trauma of their sexual abuse or assault. The image in question perpetuates and distracts from these negative experiences, making them look almost trivial. It presents a scenario that has been over-analyzed and over-thought. It skirts around the spectrum of problems that the victims face, while trying to take away their grieve for the past experience. It makes the victim or girls wish that the act, the terror, the trauma was somehow a mistake. It finds solace in the idea that a mere picture, a detail in a staged rape scene can in fact provide closure. It exists solely to sympathize with the victim, especially in light of the culture that accords him or her too much power and authority and silences their voice.

I don’t believe that children’s brains are capable of working in ways that are meaningful, other than analyzing a new Halloween costume or finding a reason to like a new television show. Children live in the real world, where they see real life violence, real people dying in real massacres, without venturing into the images online that they may not understand the context of. Rather than holding them back, a better option would be for the school board to work with the students and parents to show them that this is not the only experience a young girl can have.

The primary role of the school board is to produce well-informed students and prepare them for higher education. While it has a role to play in the study of violence and sex, it cannot become the primary source of that information for students. The responsibility belongs to the teachers and those who know them best — the parents.

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