The timing was just chance, but couldn't have been more appropriate. As last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stirred up talk about teenage sexual assault, blackout drinking and the dangers faced by young people, a group of Dallas teens on Saturday used dramatic performances to teach their peers about sexual assault.
TeenAge Communication Theatre is a group made up of high school students from at least 13 different schools whose performances attempt to educate students about sexual assault, self-harm, self-esteem, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol and drug use.
The group of more than 40 students rehearses their scenes in a small Planned Parenthood office in Dallas every Saturday. The Observer caught up with them during rehearsal this past weekend.
“The most prevalent date-rape drug is alcohol,” said Hockaday School senior Nisha Singh as a preface to the first skit.
Greenhill School junior Sophia Hurst played the part of a girl enjoying a high school party who takes her crush upstairs after he fills her up with alcohol from a siphon. Greenhill junior Jeffrey Harberg played the role of her high school crush, who kept going after she said no. When his friend points out to him that what he did was wrong, Harberg's character is shocked.
“Rapists are people you see on the news,” said Harberg in the role of the rapist. “I’m not a rapist, I’m just a kid in high school!”
In Kavanaugh’s hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while they were in high school, described a similar scene. She said a boozy Kavanaugh held her down and tried to rape her while one of his friends watched at a high school party she attended in the summer of 1982. Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusation.
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As the rest of the country begins a new conversation on consent and sexual assault on the heels of the #MeToo movement, the teenagers in TACT are continuing to perform and educate at high schools and juvenile detention centers hoping to limit the interactions that might lead to a case like Ford's.
"It's really patronizing that they're saying, 'Oh, because you're a teenager you don't know what consent is,'" said Greenhill senior Kelsey Roberts. "But our entire group of teenagers knows what consent is, and there are so many adults who don’t know what consent is and to me, that proves that age is not a measurement of your understanding of consent."
As the Senate deliberates on Kavanaugh's nomination, the teens in TACT hope their performances continue the conversation surrounding sexual assault and rape among their peers. Trinity High School senior Christina Van Waasbergen said what Ford described in her testimony was something that can happen to any high school student, and something that any average teen would be held accountable for.
"Sure, as teenagers, we aren’t completely grown up yet, but we do know right from wrong," she said. "We know that it's wrong to steal something or to punch someone in the face, and we certainly know it's wrong to sexually assault somebody. That's why it's important for us to go out there and teach."