Teacher’s ‘rape culture’ letter sparks controversy

"A lot of sexual assault survivors feel very attacked," one student said

A Google Street View of Grant High School in Portland, Nov. 17, 2014
A Google Street View of Grant High School in Portland, Nov. 17, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Students are speaking up after a Grant High School teacher wrote a letter about rape that some say is dismissive of sex assault survivors.

History teacher David Lickey reportedly wrote the 3-page letter that caused a social media firestorm in the Grant High School community. In the letter, Lickey allegedly described rape culture as a “theoretical construct that is ill-defined.”

Grant High School teacher David Lickey’s 3-page letter about sexual assault didn’t sit well with everyone. (Courtesy photo)

Student Zoe Estep Shaw, who is part of a women’s advocacy group, told KOIN 6 News she had a class with Lickey. She said she was disappointed by his letter.

“A lot of people are upset, I’m upset,” Shaw said. “A lot of sexual assault survivors feel very attacked. They are basically told their experiences were invalid.”

After the letter circulated among students, staff and members of Shaw’s women’s empowerment club, she said an advisor took the issue up with administrators.

“I think we need to address that there is this culture at Grant that white men feel like they can step up and say rape culture isn’t a thing,” Shaw said.

Grant High School Principal Carol Campbell sent her own letter to parents stating:

“You may be aware of an unfortunate incident regarding a document written by a teacher and shared with students regarding ‘rape culture.’ It included some statements that run counter to the way we approach this important subject. The perspective of the teacher does not reflect nor support our approach to educating students on sexual assault.” – Principal Carol Campbell

Shaw said she liked the response her principal sent out.

It’s still unclear in what context Lickey’s letter was written.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.