A lot has happened in the six years since I left Friends School of Baltimore. The Ravens won their second Super Bowl, Taylor Swift blessed us with "1989" and "Reputation," and Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominee of a major U.S. political party. As a society, we’ve also grown in our understanding of sexual violence and the form it takes on high school and college campuses.
As an alum, I appreciate that Friends has always been willing to lean into difficult, sometimes painful, but necessary conversations. So it was gratifying to learn from its Upper School counselor Amy Melchin about the exciting K-12 programming being implemented around healthy relationships and consent education. In our media-obsessed and highly sexualized culture, equipping children with the skills, values, and knowledge to discern the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships must become a priority for parents and educators.
The values I learned at Friends contributed to my decision to join the nonprofit organization In It Together. Created by Bowdoin graduate Ali Ragan, In It Together offers workshops on college and high school campuses to shift the culture around sexual violence and healthy relationships.
At In It Together we know that in order to change the culture, we must first change the conversation. We believe it is critical that everyone participates and feels that they are welcome in dialogues about sexual violence. To foster honest dialogue and encourage participation, our facilitators ask questions to which there is not necessarily a “right” answer. We understand that individuals who may feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions are often the individuals from whom we most need to hear. By starting the conversation from a place of inclusivity, we let the students express their own feelings and give them a platform to devise their own solutions and ways of healing.
Another way In It Together changes the conversation is by encouraging participants to better understand how they can support those affected by sexual violence and take action. We help students see that everyone has the power to make a difference in the life of even just one person with whom they interact each day. For us, support doesn’t mean knowing exactly what to say. Support is about connection and being there.
I was so excited when Friends School in April welcomed In It Together to campus to engage in community conversations about sexual violence and prevention. We met with parents during an evening presentation, and with the 11th and 12th grade classes the following day. The honest conversations that emerged and, more importantly, the deep interest in continuing these conversations was heartening, although not surprising, given the School’s focus on social justice, community, and integrity.
All of us belong in conversations about sexual violence because we are all in this together.
# # #
Teaching kids about healthy relationships - Washington Post, Oct. 25, 2017
Why consent is a conversation for every age - ParentMap, Jan. 26, 2018
The Teen Hookup Culture: What Parents Should Know - TODAY Parenting Team, Feb. 6, 2018