This Year's Consent Summit Draws Record Attendance
At the end of November 2020, GDS hosted the fifth annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent, the largest to date and the only to be held exclusively online. GDS student leaders, under the guidance of a team of GDS faculty and staff members, created 391 personal schedules for student, faculty, parent, administrator, and counselor attendees from across the country.
The conference offered nearly 70 different workshops over two days plus smaller cohort meetings, facilitated by GDS students, to continue connecting and sharing experiences throughout the weekend. Additionally, this year’s pre-conference event featured former NFL quarterback, Heisman Trophy runner-up, and author of You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity Don McPherson, who spoke about his two decades of work promoting what he calls “aspirational masculinity.” The parent track of the conference brought back some veteran presenters, including renowned health educator Shafia Zaloom, GDS’s own director of student life and wellness Bobby Asher, and Susan and Alex Prout, the parents of sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout.
“I deeply appreciate all that you are doing to make our world a better place for all—we need so much of that right now in particular,” Shafia Zaloom wrote. “I am always so grateful to be a part of the summit. It's an annual highlight.” She explained that the “passion, inspiration, and commitment” of the “phenomenal student leaders” stands out as the conference highlight and drives her to return to her work with a renewed “emphasis on consent and relationships—[on] love, care, and dignity.”
Each year, the conference opens with a community welcome and panel discussion with survivors of sexual assault. This year was no exception as the director and an executive intern for Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) Rachel Mackinnon and Kaitlin Durkin as well as consultant Sam Carwyn joined the opening conversation, Shattering the Silence, Removing the Shame. The panelists shared their inspirational stories of trauma, healing, and justice. The discussion also aimed to empower students to help create culture change by being everyday advocates.
New and noteworthy this year was the inclusion of keynote speaker Cheyenne Tyler Jacobs, a storyteller, community organizer, spoken word artist, and author of The Tragic Type of Beautiful: The Journey of Magic and Mayhem and the She Will Speak series. Jacobs dedicated her opening and closing keynotes to address intersectionality. She also offered her closing thoughts to the conference with spoken word poetry that resonated as powerful for many summit attendees, many of whom wrote later to say they were inspired to carry their learning back to their own school communities.
Two other noteworthy additions this year were a workshop focused on culture surrounding athletics with health educator and coach Kyle Petty and another that leaned into the conflict when faith traditions are at odds with human dignity and basic feminist principles, presented by Rabbi Shira Stutman.
Engaging boys and men in the work of culture change around sexual assault and consent continued to be a focus through the inclusion of the student-run GDS chapter of Boys Leading Boys and the addition of MenChallenging, an online campaign and resource calling men to do their part in ending gender-based violence.
The summit provided options for attendees to choose to learn through a historical lens, a legal lens—with the inclusion of Lauren Haggerty from the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia—as well as an artistic lens. Students participated in the Traveling Heart Project, led by the GDS Art Initiative student leads, which is dedicated to combating sexual assault with humanity and dignity through art activism.
Despite the shift in format, the GDS organizers received high praise for a smoothly run, meaningful conference. In fact, many participants shared feedback that they appreciated the opportunity to connect digitally and hope the option will continue in the future.
Former GDS staff member Catherine Pearson wrote, “For students that have conflicts or for schools that may not have the means to be able to send a group to DC and assume the associated costs, it is very special to be able to experience the summit over Zoom.”
A senior from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart wrote, “I think GDS did such an amazing job adapting to a virtual summit!! Every year I am blown away by how passionate and committed the GDS students and teachers are.”
Ella Farr ’21 and High School counselor Amy Killy officially closed the summit with their expressions of gratitude for the presence of the nearly 400 committed attendees and the GDS Consent Summit leadership team. Following the summit, more grateful feedback poured in, including the following from a GDS parent. “This was the most extraordinary event,” said Jill Morningstar (Leah Fitzpayne ’22). “I am so grateful that you opened this essential discussion and information to the students. I can't imagine how much better the world I grew up in would have been if we had been able to learn and participate in such an incredible event.”
GDS is grateful to the work of the faculty and staff advisors and presenters Amy Killy, Bobby Asher, Campbell Keyser, Ed Stern, Gaby Grebski, Guyton Mathews, Leigh Tait, and Meg Blitzshaw as well as the student leaders listed below, especially our seniors in their final Consent Summit as GDS students.
Class of 2021 student leads:
Non-senior planning members:
Elana Spector ’22
Jamie Kleinbord ’22
Leah Fitzpayne ’22
Luke Flyer ’22
Maddie Feldman ’22
Max Grosman ’22
Maya Stutman-Shaw ’22
Natalie Pearce ’22
Phoebe Braun ’22
Sarah Leary ’23