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The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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Introduction to "You can't tell me I wasn't raped"

Editor’s note: This story appears on The Paly Voice per the request of Verde Magazine. The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily representative of that of The Paly Voice or any of its staff members.

From the Verde Editors:

Most societies don’t talk about rape. We consider it a taboo, conditioning victims to feel ashamed about speaking out and forcing them to deal with the aftermath in silence. But the recent rapes committed in Steubenville, Amherst and New Delhi have forced us to examine how we deal with sexual assault.

Our cover package, to be released on Tuesday, April 9, examines the many facets of rape culture, from victim-blaming to flawed media coverage of rape to the old “boys will be boys” cliché. Lisie Sabbag’s article “‘You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped’” tells the story of two rape victims and the overwhelming lack of support they received from the community. Sabbag also discusses the ways our culture teaches us to perceive rape as inevitable. Be mindful that this story deals with accounts of sexual assault, and may be an emotional trigger for some people. Please read on cautiously. In Will Queen’s piece “Breaking the Silence,”  he offers a male perspective on the lack of discussion surrounding sexual assault. Finally, Savannah Cordova explains why rape jokes aren’t funny in “Taking it Seriously.”

Throughout the process of composing our cover package, our staff strove to practice objective reporting, as discussed in our editorial. We chose not to interview the boys directly involved in the incidents we share, wanting to focus on the broader issue of rape culture in Palo Alto rather than the details of specific anecdotes. However, we tried to make up for it by including other male Paly voices. Please read “From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys,” a collection of interviews with senior guys across campus about their views on opinions that surround rape culture. Additionally, Queen’s story mentioned above also discusses how men are treated in discussions of rape culture. We are focused on the broader issue of rape culture in Palo Alto, not on pointing fingers at individuals.

We stress that all of the photo illustrations in our cover package were taken with models from our staff and are not connected with the sources in our stories. In addition, we’ve discussed this story with the survivors every step of the way. Everything printed has been approved by the victims who shared their stories, as well as experts in counseling for sexual violence and reporting sexual violence. On that note, we’d like to express our gratitude to the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism, which is dedicated to responsible coverage of traumatic events, including rape coverage.  The organization worked with us to make Sabbag’s story show the best and most compassionate reporting possible. In writing this story, Sabbag also received help from the Student Press Law Center,  the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a Poynter Institute course on “Reporting on Sexual Violence.”

As many of you read Sabbag’s story, you may notice that these stories are similar to many others at Paly. With that being said, our aim is not to identify either the victims or perpetrators featured in the article. By publishing an article on rape culture, our goal is to increase discussion about the issue, not the individuals involved. You may know or think you know those featured in the article. Please don’t name names or speculate as to the victims’ or perpetrators’ identities either in conversation or online. Not only does it detract from the goal of proactive discussion on rape culture, but it can be  defamatory for both victims and alleged perpetrators as well. Speculation can quickly spiral into false accusations, which are damaging to people’s lives. Additionally, in reporting this story, Sabbag drew from a number of cases similar to the ones depicted in the anecdotes. These stories come from a large pool of interviews.  Any speculation is irresponsible and likely to be inaccurate. Again, our goal in publishing this article is not to point fingers, but to generate productive discussion about rape as an issue.

However, we aren’t asking rape victims to stay silent. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you don’t have to keep quiet. Get help by calling RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE or the local YWCA of Silicon Valley’s crisis hotline 650.493.7273. You can also communicate with Palo Alto High School’s on-campus Adolescent Counseling Services at 650.833.4244. Off-campus Adolescent Counseling Services can be contacted at 408.279.8228.

We don’t want the conversation to stop here. If you have any comments on this package, responsible discussion should continue on the comment sections on the Paly Voice, the Verde Facebook page, and using the twitter hashtag #verderapeculture. Additionally, if you want your comments to remain private, please email any comments to [email protected]. If you want to contact the author of the feature article directly, you can do so at [email protected]. If you would like to direct a comment specifically to the Verde Magazine adviser Paul Kandell, email [email protected].  Verde and Paly faculty members are also working on additional efforts to provide forums for discussion of these issues on campus.

Finally, thank you to the editors at The Paly Voice, who have generously helped us post our work online while our own site is undergoing maintenance.

Ana Carano, Sharon Tseng, and Evelyn Wang


Need help?

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you don’t have to keep quiet.

Get help by calling RAINN’s  National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE,

 the local YWCA of Silicon Valley’s crisis hotline 650.493.7273 or

Adolescent Counseling Services at 650.883.4244.


Related Stories

Introduction: “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped”

“You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” by Lisie Sabbag

Editorial: Practice more objective reporting

From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys by Lisie Sabbag

Breaking the silence: We need to change the way we think about rape by Will Queen

Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you by Savannah Cordova

The state of rape today


Check out the PDF of Verde Magazine on issuu

For secondary coverage of this magazine package, click here

For a copy of the letter sent to faculty before the release of this issue, click here

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  • B

    Bernadette Rose CranmerApr 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I am so impressed by the care you took in handling every article. You have raised the level of discourse. Nothing is more powerful than peers teaching peers about this topic. It’s beyond time for us to push back against society’s awful complacency about rape. Well done.
    B. Cranmer/Granite Bay High School Ursus adviser

  • A

    Anushka PatilApr 11, 2013 at 2:00 am

    As a fellow journalist, I want to say /thank you/ to the Verde editors and reporters who worked on this package. It was a necessary conversation to start, especially in high schools like ours, where we think “this doesn’t happen here.” Just brave and excellent reporting and ethics all around. You guys are an example for other journalists – high schoolers and professionals both.