Peace Over Violence, a sexual and domestic violence center, and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have worked as partners for over 20 years to educate Los Angeles students on what it means to have a healthy and violence free relationship. Through this partnership, thousands of students have received education and trainings in their classrooms and on their campuses that address issues such as sexual violence and teen dating violence.
Both of us have been involved in promoting violence free and healthy relationships education from the beginning: Steve, first as a teacher and then as a member of the School Board, and Patti as a leader in teen dating and sexual violence prevention, and the Founder of Denim Day, a sexual violence prevention education campaign. Subjects that were once taboo have become part of the critical content of the social-emotional learning that allows all other teaching and learning to happen.
Each year the School Board declares “Denim Day LAUSD” across the district. Students, faculty and administrators wear jeans with a purpose and focus on sexual violence prevention education.
LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country, and student led efforts of the Denim Day campaign reach thousands of youth and adults annually. Teachers and Administrators witness the value of student initiatives that foster empowerment, skill-building, promote community and violence prevention.
Each year, more students become involved in educating themselves, each other and their communities on supporting survivors, understanding the roots of violence, how to be an “upstander,” and how prevention education is the key to building safer and healthier relationships. The voices of students, supported by faculty, become stronger each year and their sphere of influence extends to their families and communities.
Our students have been exposed to social justice movements – from the women’s march to immigration reform that need and welcome their leadership. Peace Over Violence, among other community groups that partner with the LAUSD schools, hosts a Youth Over Violence Leadership Institute that provides opportunities for students to become leaders on campus and in their communities.
When youth have access to the right opportunities, youth-led activism empowers the individual, their friends, and their communities by spreading awareness and information. Sexual and domestic violence impacts everyone. With tabling events, t-shirts and buttons with messaging, presentations, and Students Together Organizing Peace (STOP) clubs, youth recognize that these issues impact them, and that they have the knowledge and the skills that can lead efforts that work to end violence against women, children, and men. A transformational dynamic is generated when students become experts in the subject matter in their own lives and, as youth leaders and influencers embody the idea that sexual violence is not welcome “on my campus,” “in my locker room,” “on my body,” “in my family.” The voices of young survivors and their allies are repairing the past and building a better future.
Denim Day 2017 is on April 26th, but fosters activities throughout the month and will be the largest ever with millions of people worldwide pledging to support survivors, educate and prevent sexual violence. This year we believe that among those numbers will be more students from middle, high school and college campuses than ever before. We know that these young leaders can inspire us all to work together towards a future that is free from sexual and relationship violence.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about the NSVRC and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.