Hello! Another English teacher and sexual assault survivor here who is also 22 and definitely mature enough to teach about adult themes.
I think the book is so incredibly important to teach to high schoolers. Sexual assault is real at that age -- I was SA'd in 10th grade -- and I only wish we would have had discussions about dealing with SA and believing people who said that they were raped. That's a huge deal in the book -- the main character's friends don't believe her and she's completely isolated. Teenagers would rather believe that they don't know anybody who could possibly rape someone, than believe the victim.
My teaching philosophy is that students learn best from studying real world issues, and how to solve them, so they become better global citizens. This includes things like women's rights, racism, homelessness, poverty, bullying, gang violence, and yes, sexual assault. Because we do need to discuss these things. I don't feel like I'm teaching if I pick books that are all about puppies, or vapid brainless fiction. Books and literature MEAN something. And it's how you get students to care.
Something that also needs to be said is that many teens who read Speak
, boys especially, ask why the main character is so upset about being raped, and why she doesn't just "get over it." They don't understand the gravity of the act. That is scary to me and proves to me the importance of addressing such a subject. Men and women need to understand how damaging rape is, and how not to victim blame.
To me, this is essential in stopping rape and victim blaming.