To the editor:

In late January, hand-rendered swastikas, racial epithets and sexual images were drawn in a girls bathroom of Newburyport High School.

The news article of Jan. 31 and the Feb. 5 Human Rights Commission’s letter to the editor rightly noted the anti-Semitic dimensions of the incident.

The incident was classic hate speech. It was also an act of gender violence; an assault on the women who study, play and work at the high school.

To the person(s) who did this I say:

You may not have realized it at the time but you were a predator on that day. You entered a facility used exclusively by women and individuals who identify as female, a facility every woman who spends more than a short period of time in the building must use, and whose use places them in a vulnerable position. And you committed a physical act intended to cause harm.

Your actions were part of a continuum of harm our society inflicts on females nearly every day of our lives. Some are less harmful than what you did, some are more. These acts, individually and accumulated over time, cause problems, including low self-esteem and a range of physical and psychological injuries that can last a lifetime.

On that day, you were also isolated; outside the community of students, city officials and neighbors who stood alongside each other to reject your actions and say, “This is not OK. It is not who we are.”

What you did was one act on one day. Fortunately, we have enough kind individuals and professional resources close by to care for whomever was harmed.

It was also a vote. A choice. A step.

Today is a new day. And a new opportunity to vote, to choose, to step.

It’s an opportunity to vote for community and stand alongside others to affirm rather than afflict.

To choose to be a part of solutions instead of problems. And to step closer to someone – a teacher, a counselor, a neighbor who has at some time felt the upset, uncertainty, hopes and dreams that we all experience and can unify around as part of our human endowment.

Jean Costello

Newburyport

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