I am mad that Samantha Kelly is dead. I am deeply saddened that in her final moments of life she did not feel that there was a single person that could give her a glimmer of hope.Â I am responsible for Samantha Kelly’s death. We are all responsible. How can I say this? Most of us had never heard of Samantha prior to her suicide, most of don’t live near her or have children in her school, most of us had never heard of Joseph Tarnopolski.
However, we as a culture and a society have condoned violence against women and girls for centuries. We have failed to hold rapists and batterers fully accountable. We have failed to educate our children about respecting each other and about gender equality. We have failed to make sure all of our children feel safe — safe at home and safe in their community. We have failed to put adequate resources into services for victims, programming for abusers and resources to provide adequate and appropriate primary prevention programs. We are at the very least partially responsible for allowing rape to happen.
When a rape occurs, we point fingers and there is public outcry. Then we go back to our respective corners, life goes on and very little changes. Violence against women and girls is often viewed as a women’s issue, a problem for certain professionals to handle and solve, something that impacts “those people” and not us. Until we can all wrap our heads, arms and wallets around the fact that we have a serious social problem on our hands, we will stay stuck.
So what do we do about it? I challenge each and every one of us to minimally do one of the following AND to stick with it — one call doesn’t solve the problem! There are no excuses —it doesn’t matter if you have no children or your kids are grown and not teens. It doesn’t matter if you are single or if you are unemployed. And it doesn’t matter if you feel like you wield no power!
Three reality checks:
4 in 5 students say that have experienced some form of sexual harassment during their school lives: 85% of girls and 76% of boys.
Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
Approximately 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
1. Get educated! Learn more about violence against women and girls. Learn about CSC laws, consent and how to become proactive.
2. As a taxpayer and concerned citizen call your local school district and find out what their policy is on sexual assault, bullying, etc. Find out what information students, of all ages, are receiving in school about the crimes of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Insist on change if needed.
3. Call your local government officials — those that represent your local community, including those representing you at the state and national levels. Ask them about they have done in the past to support individuals who are victims of these crimes. Ask them what they intend to do about it now. Beyond the political rhetoric (no one will openly say that they don’t support victims) push for them to say exactly what they intend to do. Then hold them accountable.
4. Find out how your local law enforcement agency, county sheriff department, state police and city/county prosecutors react to reports of domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying. Find out how you can support their efforts or push them to change.
5. Contact the local media— let them know when you believe they miss the mark in their reporting or give them a pat on the back when they nail it.
6. Contact companies, businesses, advertising agencies, print media, etc. when they publish and/or sell products that openly promote violence against women. Refuse to buy these products for yourself or others. Refuse to buy from these businesses.
7. TALK to your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other kids that you care about! Talk with them about violence in relationships. They need your help and support. They need education on these crimes, on gender equity, and on respect. They need to be listened to, loved and encouraged. They need to know that you are in their corner and will support them, even when there appears to be no hope.
8. If you are a parent or guardian, attend this workshop — Parents as Bystanders. Contact HAVEN for more information.
9. Write a check, volunteer, reach out to your local domestic and sexual violence program. Fuel their voice and fuel their efforts to reach out to children and teens.
Do something! We should all care about Samantha and all the others girls in our community that have been assaulted. Make her suicide your call to action. Be the glimmer of hope for others.
Let me know what you think.
Â© 2011 Copyright Â Allison Stuart Kaplan Â www.Askinyourface.com LLC