Teen stabs her sexual harasser with scissors and the internet debates: Did he deserve it?

Elise Solé
A female student stabbed a boy with scissors when he lifted her skirt. Now they’re both in trouble. (Photo: Getty Images)
A female student stabbed a boy with scissors when he lifted her skirt. Now they’re both in trouble. (Photo: Getty Images)

A boy who lifted the skirt of a female student was stabbed by his victim — and both teens are in trouble.

According to local news station Fox 13, a male student at Central High School in Memphis, Tenn., pulled up the dress of a fellow schoolmate during class, and she, in turn, grabbed a pair of scissors and tried to stab him multiple times before causing injury. The boy, who told police that his actions weren’t meant seriously and that the victim was never exposed, was issued a juvenile summons for sexual battery. His victim was given a juvenile summons for aggravated assault.

Some on Twitter called the injury an act of self-defense.

Others felt the punishment was disproportionate to the crime.

A representative from Central High School did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

Given the unknowns of the case — the children’s ages and the history of behavior between or independent of the two teens — it’s tough to assess the outcome. “Any victim’s reaction is informed by their entirety of their life story and how they assess their safety at the moment,” Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. In other words: Was the girl reacting to a lifetime of abuse either by this boy, at home, or otherwise? Was she in fear for her safety?

“Oftentimes, victims of sexual crime just want the behavior to stop, which drives much of their decision-making,” she says. “That’s often the case for kids, many of whom experience sexual harassment as young as in elementary school, in the form of unwanted touching, groping, comments, or policies such as dress codes that place responsibility on girls to not dress provocatively.” 

It would be ideal, adds Margaret L. Signorella, PhD, a professor of psychology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University, if schools had detailed, education-based systems for handling these types of cases, versus universal zero-tolerance rules, because both the parties miss a learning opportunity. The girl may believe that defending herself isn’t worth the trouble (although it’s unclear whether her response was appropriate). “Likewise, the boy could walk away feeling as though he’s the victim here, and that’s not a positive message,” Signorella tells Yahoo Lifestyle. 

“The boy’s intent has little to do with the outcome, as that’s not how we define sexual harassment,” notes Palumbo, “and we don’t always have the language in the criminal code to describe it. That’s why schools should consider what’s not only illegal, but what’s making kids feel unsafe and disrespected.” 

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