In scope and in heart, the 4th Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent, rivaled many national professional conferences. The 300 participants each experienced their journeys through the Summit’s (55!!) sessions—plus keynotes and panels—differently. Some attended the Summit for the first time, while others returned for a fourth. For some, the Summit was a wake-up call, a warning bell, or a bellwether. Some experienced pain, some left pain behind, and some understood someone else’s pain for the first time. Most left feeling empowered, heard, and held.
In thinking about how to tell the story of the Summit, we begin with the end, looking at the incredible energy and desire for culture change that attendees felt as they departed:
Many adult attendees expressed hope and gratitude as they left. Parent Jenny Smulson (Eli Smulson ’20, one of the Summit’s student leaders) attended the sessions for parents. She reflected, “What an extraordinary event. The content was exceptional and GDS’s leadership and vision is remarkable. I left feeling hopeful that because of GDS, our kids (and so many others who participated) will be more aware, more mindful, more respectful and act with agency today and in the future.”
Head of School Russell Shaw expressed his gratitude directly to faculty leaders Amy Killy ’90, Gaby Grebski, Campbell Keyser, Leigh Tait, and Meg Blitzer as well as the 26 student leaders. “Thank you for your inspired leadership of the fourth annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. This is one of the best examples of a GDS program that is mission-aligned, transformative for our students (and parents), and so indicative of what a place like GDS can make possible. From our presenters and visiting students to our parents and our own student organizers, all constituencies left the day energized and prepared to carry your good work into the world. I'm certain that you each spent countless hours stewarding the conference, and did more than I could ever imagine possible. I am truly grateful to each of you.”
Keynote speakers also experienced the conference as workshop participants. Darryl Johnson, who served as a keynote panelist and a workshop presenter, spoke to disrupting the incidence of sexual assault perpetrated on the trans community, particularly trans women of color. She participated in several sessions through the day and later wrote, “Thank you, Georgetown Day School, for including me in your 4th Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. I learned so much, was so grateful for the opportunity to share, and felt so held in the space. Thank you to Campbell, Amy, and the army of student leaders/organizers, especially my student liaison, Noelle [Sanderson ’20], for her care and logistical support.”
Shafia Zaloom, frequent GDS presenter, renowned teen sex educator, and author of Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between, presented several workshops through the Summit and the keynote to parents the evening before. She posted a photo of our Consent Summit leadership team debriefing at the end of the day and shared a glowing review on Instagram. She wrote, “A tremendous crew of kids. An inspiration and force for change as they reflect upon their experiences, hard work, and conscious practice of care and dignity, which wouldn’t have happened without the incredible work of [the team].”
Katherine Kendall, a survivor and advocate for survivors/victims of sexual assault, participated as a panelist during the opening keynote and presented sessions on the #MeToo Movement. She was the first to recount publicly Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and predatory misconduct. Following the conference, she praised the students and shared her gratitude at being honored as a keynote speaker. “The Summit is initiated by the students, and I am so impressed with all of them,” she said. “I have so much hope for the future. They are changing the world!”
Dr. Kaye Whitehead, who previously delivered keynotes at GDS’s MLK Jr. Teach-In Days, gave her 500th keynote address at the Summit. Ever attentive to detail, the staff and student leaders had flowers to honor this milestone and her guiding wisdom. Panelist and presenter Meredith Chaffin expressed feeling seen and understood in a way “unlike anything else I've felt about my assaults.” She said, “The students were all so invested.”
Students, educators, and parents left toting words they felt moved to pen themselves in Summit journals given at registration as well as books by nationally recognized authors on comprehensive sex education, sexual assault, and wellness on sale in the resource fair. The resource fair included important texts such as I Have a Right To by Chessy Prout, whose parents Susan and Alex once again presented in the parent track.
Presenters from the all-male High School club Boys Leading Boys received grateful words from school leaders and faculty at Gonzaga, Saint Albans, and Riverdale Country School (The Bronx). Christine Young, director of student life at Riverdale Country School, wrote “It was great to learn more about this important club at GDS and the presenters did a great job sharing both their goals and the real-life impact the club has on their experiences and student culture.”
Steve Lee, director of equity and inclusion at Burke School, wrote of the Consent Summit, “It is consistently one of the most impressive and valuable conferences that I attend each year. Our students were very motivated at the end of the day to share everything that they learned and take action at Burke.”
Perhaps the most moving expression of gratitude came from someone who could not attend this year. Alum Tyce Christian ’18, one of the founders of the Consent Summit, wrote to Amy Killy about the far-reaching impact of the Summit prior to its start. “Seeing [all the preparations via social media] reminds me of how lucky I am to have been a part of it. I haven’t talked about the Summit to anyone at school in so long, as it feels weird to still talk about something I did in high school. But I have come to the realization that the Summit is not simply “something I did in high school,” like most other extracurriculars that people at [Northwestern] talk about. It is something that fundamentally changed who I am as a person. The true magic of the Summit is that it will continue to fundamentally change people’s lives every year. Everyone working on the Summit this year will forever be impacted by the next 48 hours, and they will carry the lessons they’ve learned into college and beyond.”
So what actually happened there? To understand best how the Consent Summit moves people in life-changing ways, you’ll need to register for the 5th Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent, coming in November 2020.