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Check out this growing collection of useful articles from the hub for middle and high school students and parents who are looking for information, support, and avenues of action against sexual assault in schools.

Katie M. Shipp: Addressing sexual violence with young people

May 20, 2024

By Katie M. Shipp
Trib Live
4 min read

As the academic year draws to a close, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on the lessons our children have absorbed over the past school year and the values we hope they will carry with them as they journey forward.

Amidst the current landscape punctuated by headlines such as the recent reversal of the Harvey Weinstein verdict, alongside a relentless stream of narratives echoing across the nation daily, we are starkly reminded that even in the post #MeToo era, we as a society are still wrestling with the realities and consequences of living in a world where sexual violence is alarmingly prevalent.

As an attorney who represented survivors of childhood sexual abuse for over a decade and now travels across the country teaching students about consent, healthy relationships and preventing sexual assault, I urge you to spend some time with your children having these critical conversations

The I Have The Right To organization has reached over 10,000 students. Through conversations with these students, I have learned that young people not only need to but are eager to learn more.

One in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. Despite this, 76% of students report never having a conversation with their parents about how to avoid sexually harassing others, and 70% wish they would have received more information from their parents.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this is a part of our children’s world, and just like we put a seat belt on them before we start the car, we must prepare them in order to protect them.

I Have The Right To was conceived from a personal and harrowing experience of sexual assault that shook the Prout family to its core. When Chessy Prout was only 15, she was the victim of an assault that not only scarred her but also shattered her and her family’s faith in the institutions supposed to protect her. The trial that followed was a public spectacle that underlined a stark reality — that sexual assault is not an isolated issue. It is a reflection of deeper, systemic failures, societal biases, and the disturbingly high level of institutional complicity.

At I Have The Right To, we have committed ourselves to creating an ecosystem of respect and support for all survivors of sexual assault. We passionately believe in the strength of a community.

Survivors need to know they are not alone. They need to know there are people who understand their experiences, who will listen to their stories without judgment and who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their battles for justice.

Our work is centered on advocating understanding, promoting prevention, changing attitudes and behaviors, and lobbying for policies and practices that protect individuals and bring perpetrators to justice. It is about recognizing the intersectionality of victims’ experiences and acknowledging the disproportionate impact of sexual violence on minority groups.

Education is a critical aspect of the I Have The Right To mission. We strive to inform students, parents and educators about the gruesome realities of sexual assault. We provide resources to help them understand the magnitude of the problem, recognize the signs of assault and respond effectively when they witness or experience it. We also encourage schools to educate their faculty and staff on the prevalence of sexual violence among students, as understanding and acknowledgment of the issue is the first step toward addressing it.

Prevention, too, is a cornerstone of our work. We collaborate with schools to review their policies and procedures related to sexual assault, with the aim of ensuring clarity, comprehensiveness and proactivity. We firmly believe that every school should have a code of conduct that safeguards all students and provides clear guidelines on preventing and responding to incidents of sexual assault. We advocate for transparency, accountability and a proactive approach to preventing sexual assault.

Despite the heavy nature of these discussions, our feedback consistently is described as positive by students, educators and parents alike. We focus on the proactive steps everyone can take to lessen the occurrence of sexual assault in our schools and our communities. Our curriculum teaches students about aspirational masculinity, being an upstander, and teaches about the meaning of consent. We believe these important lessons are key to prevention.

Prevention goes hand in hand with respect — respect for oneself, respect for others and respect for boundaries. This is a message we emphasize every single day of the year. We believe that safety starts with respect and until every student is treated with the respect they deserve, no student is truly safe.

We must build connected communities that value and promote social and emotional education, that meet survivors where they are in their healing journey, and that strive to create strong, connected communities that take care of one another and make decisions to ensure the safety and well-being of others to end sexual violence.

Awareness is the first step toward change. Let’s commit to continuing these conversations, educating ourselves and others, preventing sexual assault in our schools and communities, and supporting survivors. Because when all is said and done, we all have the right to safety, respect, and justice.

Katie M. Shipp is executive director of I Have The Right To, an organization focused on fostering healthy relationships and teaching kids about consent. She lives in Pittsburgh and is a part-time professor at Point Park University and an active board member with the Women’s Law Project.

Virginia sex assault case raises questions about school responsibility

April 1, 2024

By Karina Elwood
The Washington Post
6 min read

In 2019, seven years after her parents pulled her out of the school, a woman filed a lawsuit alleging that Fairfax County Public Schools failed to provide her with a safe learning environment — a violation of her rights under Title IX, the law that forbids sex discrimination in federally funded schools. The violation: inaction when she reported the continual bullying and harassment that escalated into repeated rape when she was just 12 years old.

Meet the Advocates Making Colleges Safer After the Trump Era

April 1, 2024

By Finley Muratova
Rewire News Group
8 min read

Campus violence survivors and advocates have fought to restore their civil rights. The Biden administration has left them in limbo.

Fairfax County Schools lawyers try to discredit former student’s ‘story,’ as victims’ advocate criticizes ‘boys club’ in the courtroom

March 19, 2024

By Asra Q. Nomani 
Fairfax County Times
9 min read

In Courtroom 1000 on the 10th floor of Alexandria’s U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a small battalion of mostly male attorneys for Fairfax County Public Schools officials lined up on Monday against a 24-year-old former student as she sat, composed and professional, on the left side of the windowless, wood-paneled courtroom. B.R., or “Kate” as she has been called in the courtroom, alleges that school officials didn’t help her when she was sexually harassed 12 years ago as a seventh grader at Rachel Carson Middle School. 

Courage is Contagious

March 4, 2024

By Adam Barber, McQuaid Jesuit Director of Service and Justice
FortKnight Blog
4 min read

You could hear the proverbial pin drop in the John H. Ryan, Jr. Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday, October 25, 2022. The assembled high school students, faculty, and guests sat in focused silence as Steve Peacock, McQuaid Jesuit alumnus of the class of 1988, shared the story of his journey as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Donning his jersey from his time as a football Knight, Peacock courageously spoke of the consequences of the trauma he experienced, the impact on his relationships, and his ultimate choice to come forward and tell his story for the first time as a 52 year-old adult.

The Restorative Power of Using Your Voice: Interview with Steve Peacock

February 29, 2024

By Patricia Adams
4 min read

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with I Have The Right To board member, Steve
Peacock. Steve is a child sexual assault survivor, speaker, and advocate, who has delivered
keynote addresses to over 1,000 students, parents, and educators since 2021. In our interview,
I was blown away by Steve’s eloquence, passion, and drive. Steve and I spoke in depth about
the restorative power of using your voice. It was my pleasure to speak with him. Thank you,
Steve!

The Slap That Changed Everything

February 22, 2024

By Ariella Steinhorn
The New York Times
7 min read

A few months ago, a man on the street catcalled me and then spanked my left butt cheek. Although I was wearing a thick winter coat and the slap did not leave a mark, my skin was pulsating from it. I felt dirty. And while I did not see his hand or even look directly at his face, I could not stop visualizing the grime caked beneath his fingernails.

Music Heals: Interview with Izzy Imamura

February 8, 2024

By Brynne Beller
University of Arkansas
3 min read

At I Have The Right To, we are big fans of the healing power of music!  Music is universally recognized for its therapeutic effects on emotional, mental and even physical well-being.  It can reduce stress, elevate mood, and enhance relaxation.  Fun fact, Brynne Beller, author of this blog and Izzy both spent time in Tokyo, Japan  when they were young and living with their families, attending the same girls’ school, the International School of the Sacred Heart  – in the heart of Tokyo.  Izzy’s first song, “Anything at All” really captured our attention, reflecting about when you thought you knew so much in high school, only to feel like you didn’t really know “Anything at All’. 

When Institutions Betray: A New Research Review

February 1, 2024

By Kim-Chi Pham, Maria-Ernestina, Adi Rosenthal, & Anne DePrince
Trauma Research Notes
4 min read

“One of the few people that I told that I was being sexually harassed was one of the most vocal and prominent advocates for Asian Americans. And I sort of told him, as a testing ground, to see if he would believe me. And he just looked at me like my dog died and then never asked at anything again. And a week later, I saw him introducing my abuser on an Asian American panel with the most profuse praise, and it felt like such a betrayal. And I’m like, ‘if even he doesn’t believe me, who is going to believe me?”

Empathy

January 17, 2024

By Kristyn Stoia
3 min read

In a world that can sometimes feel cold and indifferent, the importance of empathy cannot be overstated. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a superpower that can transform not only our personal lives but also the communities we live in. Let’s delve into why empathy, kindness, and compassion matter, and why supporting those who have experienced sexual assault is crucial for their healing journey.

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