October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and this week the ACLU in conjunction with some of our youth clients and V-Girls, a global network of youth activists and advocates empowering themselves and one another to create the change they imagine for the world, is presenting a blog series. “Your School Your Rights – Ending Sexual Violence” is designed to highlight the many voices impacted by sexual violence and harassment in schools and the tools students, teachers and parents can use to fight back. The girls, expressing themselves in both poetry and prose, underscore the fact that kids have a RIGHT to be protected against gender-based violence in schools.
Imagine having to go to school every week fearing that a teacher or fellow pupil is going to sexually assault you. Imagine not feeling safe in an environment that you find yourself in five days a week. Imagine being deprived of the opportunity to learn because you are so fearful of gender-based violence. Unfortunately, some people don’t have to imagine this. It is their reality.
Gender based violence and harassment in schools is a serious problem. You may be fortunate enough not to be a victim of sexual violence at school but chances are that you have a friend, or a friend of a friend that has been. The good news is that it can be dealt with. It is our responsibility as classmates, friends, teachers and civilians to speak out against sexual violence and provide support to those who are victims of this cruel, illegal act.
One of the first steps that need to be taken in the quest to end the violence is to educate pupils about their rights. We cannot allow the youth to remain in a state of ‘blissful’ ignorance about issues that affect them. People need to be aware of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and know that this amendment can be used as a tool to end the violence. We need to stand up for what is right and hold the school authorities liable as they are legally and in my opinion, morally responsible for each student’s safety. We are ALL affected by sexual violence so let us come together, do away with taboos and put an end to sexual violence in school.
Let us be the generation that fights for justice when we see injustice. Let us be known as the loudmouths who won’t just let things be because it has ‘nothing to do with them’. Let us be agents of positive change. Let us be the generation of refusers.