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Your Rights, Darling, Your Rights

Callie Kittredge,
Sedona, Arizona
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October 7, 2011

This is to those who could never speak up.
Maybe you didn’t know that when he first texted you, he would end up punching you,
That black eye you didn’t know what to tell your mother.
Repeatedly sending you text messages, following you around until it became terrifying.
Calling you names and then slapping you around the corner.
Aren’t we supposed to feel safe at school?
That’s why, darling, you have rights. You have to realize what they are, and get out of your situation.
You are in control of your own life.
Your school has to protect your well-being AND your right to an equal education.
Education = success.
Success = happiness.
Don’t give up now.
While you’re in class and the buildings, during field trips and extracurricular activities, or even on the bus,
Your school MUST – now this isn’t a “shoulda/coulda/wanted to help ya” kind of a deal,
Your school MUST provide a safe environment for you.
And if they don’t, you have a right to speak up because you’re in control now.
Your school absolutely MUST let you speak up
Just as much as you have every right to say “no” when they tell you to “work it out” and talk directly to the attacker
No. Because you are not a victim anymore.
Your rights darling, your rights.
Your school has no right to punish you.
Don’t change schools, busses or classes.
Don’t leave a team or change your extracurricular activities.
Don’t change your environment in any way that would hurt you even more.
You have every right to an equal education.
Equality is yours, speak up and grab it.
And don’t let the school use time as an excuse.
If they pressure you to wait to take action on a gender-based violence complaint,
know that this is against the law.
Your school must take action immediately, don’t let anyone dance around the clock.
Just because you’re a girl, boy or anything in between, don’t become a victim
to gender-based violence.
Know that when you speak up,
you are about to change your life.

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.

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