Ella, Lauren and Michael at the WCA in April
Discussing the issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault can be hard with young people. We do not want to expose youth to that dark, but unfortunately common, aspect of our society. Statistics show that one in three adolescences in the United States will experience abuse from a dating partner. Abuse does not just happen between spouses and it is important that young people understand healthy and unhealthy relationships in order for them to thrive. These conversations are happening though and they are making a difference. We would like to highlight one example of this in which two local fifth grade students exemplified the change that can happen when we have this hard conversation.
At the end of April, the WCA Outreach and Communication team was invited to meet with two fifth grade students from Riverstone International School who were interested in learning more about the WCA and the issues our clients face. Ella and Michael were completing their eight week culminating project for Riverstone’s Primary Years Programme (PYP), a project in which students choose a specific real-world issue to inquire into with a special focus on community based action. Issues examined by Riverstone students included women’s rights, hunger, bullying and habitat conservation. Ella and Michael focused on domestic abuse and family advocacy: how support systems facilitate the rebuilding of abuse victims’ lives.
Ella and Michael had previously heard from Madeline D’Onfro, Outreach Coordinator and Prevention Specialist, when she facilitated a Break the Cycle presentation to all fifth graders at Riverstone. After that presentation they decided they wanted to further examine the support systems the WCA offers and the issues our clients face. This desire was furthered after seeing the WCA outreach table for Denim Day at Live for 175, which they visited to learn about child abuse. Both Ella and Michael had different lines of inquiry that they focused on. Michael wanted to learn about the cause and effects of abuse while Ella wanted to look into the ways in which support systems change abuse victims’ lives.
At the end of April Ella and Michael visited the WCA and interviewed Outreach Coordinator, Lauren Pusich. They asked about the history of the WCA, the services the WCA provides, what domestic abuse and sexual assault are and the ways in which we can all work to break the cycle. Both students asked thoughtful questions about how they could continue to learn more about these issue-areas.
During the meeting, Lauren mentioned the WCA’s Shoe Card program. A Shoe Card lists WCA resource information as well as with other local and national resources. These cards also include a safety plan and questionnaire on domestic violence. Individuals carry this card with them so that they may hand it out to someone in a bad situation, the nature of the Shoe Card, allows a person to seek services on their own terms. As soon as Lauren mentioned the Shoe Card program, Ella pulled a WCA Shoe Card out of her shoe. She had been carrying it around with her since she first heard about the program after visiting the WCA outreach table at Live for 175. Ella mentioned she wanted to have it on her just in case she ever saw something that didn’t sit right with her. It was so inspiring to see that Ella understood how carrying a Shoe Card and handing it out can be a life-changing and life-saving action for someone. We were also impressed at how well she demonstrated the name of the card! The WCA Shoe Card is called a shoe card in case the person who receives the card has to hide it—the card fits easily in one’s shoe.
Ella and Michael at Riverstone’s PYP Exhibition
Soon after meeting with Ella and Michael, the outreach team received an invitation in the mail to come see Riverstone’s PYP Exhibition at the end of May. Lauren was able to attend and hear both Ella and Michael speak about their project and the impact it had on them personally. The lessons that both Ella and Michael spoke about gave the WCA outreach team chills. Ella spoke how she now knew that if you are being abused, you need to tell someone in order to receive support that can help you live a better life.
The lesson that Michael stated as his biggest takeaway gave members of the outreach team chills. He stated, “If you are being abused it’s not your fault. There is nothing you can do to change yourself so that the person abusing you will stop. However, you can get the power to tell someone and get help. Throughout this process I learned that no human should be abused.”
Michael and Ella learned one of the most critical lessons the WCA knows: abuse is never the victim’s fault and help is out there. Education and awareness of domestic abuse and sexual assault have helped Ella and Michael learn how they can create change in their own community so that every individual is able to thrive in safe, healthy relationships. We are so proud to have been part of their journey and we were continually inspired by their articulation and dedication to ending the silence around abuse. Change is possible and these fifth graders are leading the way.
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