More than 300 participants assembled at GDS for the 3rd Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent.
More than 300 participants from seven states answered the call to action at GDS’s Third Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. The event was initiated, organized, and run by GDS students with the courageous support of GDS staff members. Students, parents, and educators came together to tackle culture change with the focused mission of restoring humanity, dignity, and empathy. New community partners and focused workshops inspired attendees to develop action plans to take back to their schools, amplifying the impact of this critical work. Read testimonials from students, parents, GDS leadership, and educators from other schools.
INTRODUCTION Amy Killy, GDS High School Counselor I’m the very lucky individual who has had the privilege of shepherding this amazing group of students who organized today’s Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. These students have put in countless hours creating this summit with the focused mission of restoring humanity, dignity, and empathy. And, on behalf of the whole team, we want to thank you for joining us in this mission.
When I sat down to collect my thoughts for this morning, I began to think about what felt different today than in past years. When we first started hosting this summit, it was right after the Access Hollywood tapes were released, then last year it was the #MeToo movement. This year, the Kavanaugh hearings. More and more, we are hearing from brave survivors who are sharing their stories publicly and brave survivors who are sharing their stories privately. What feels different to me is that more people are listening. Public discourse has risen, and people are talking and people are recognizing the systemic and institutionalized sexism and stereotypes, for women and for men, that allows for sexual violence to occur in the first place. What feels different to me is that it doesn’t just feel like a cause, it feels like a call to action. Given that this year’s summit has attracted private and public schools, single gender and co-ed schools, day schools and boarding schools, progressive and parochial schools, and given that we’ve drawn from seven different states, I imagine you, too, are feeling this call to action.
THE POWER TO CHANGE OUR CULTURE Ellie Asher ’20, Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member This was my second time planning the summit after attending when I was a freshman. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that kids can sometimes learn a lot more from each other than they can in class. The students themselves are the ones with the power to change our culture, a vital part of progress. Seeing kids my age taking on leadership roles in the context of this issue is what made me want to get involved in this work. It showed me that I can actually make a difference both within our community and beyond, both big and small.
START YOUR OWN CHAPTER Owen Killy ’19, Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member As one of the only guys on the consent summit leadership team this year, it was profound to see other guys from other schools take interest in this issue. This issue is often looked at as a women's issue when in reality it is a human rights issue. The majority of perpetrators of sexual assault—by far—are men; therefore, seeing so many guys taking action shows their desire for change in our culture. It was also incredible to see the support for Boys Leading Boys (BLB) [a student-initiated group of boys keeping each other accountable for changing culture around sexual assault and consent]. As a co-head of the club this year, I know we have worked so hard to further our mission. Seeing so many guys inspired to start their own action plans was extraordinary. Stemming from our BLB session, we have heard from multiple schools about starting a chapter at their school. These schools include: Gonzaga, St. Albans, Georgetown Prep, Landon, and Paideia [in Georgia].
A NATIONAL FOCUS Russell Shaw, Head of School I am so proud of the work of our High School students and Amy Killy in leading our Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. This year's gathering was our biggest ever, with visiting schools eager to learn from our work and highly motivated by the national focus on these issues in the past year. Our students did a brilliant job of enlisting powerful speakers and creating space for dialogue and engagement. For me this year's summit was a family affair—I welcomed participants to the summit, my ninth grade daughter participated, and my brother-in-law was a presenter! The Summit serves as an important launch pad for so many schools, who take their learnings back to campus and invest in the process of culture change. I'm grateful to Amy and to our kids for advancing such important work.
COMPASSION AND DIGNITY Maddie Brown ’19, Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member During the Summit, I organized a session called the Traveling Heart Project, which originated during the Policy Institute this summer. This project aims to honor the brave survivors who were generous enough to share their stories and highlights the importance of compassion and dignity in our activism. Summit participants painted canvas hearts, which will be sold at auction in April. Proceeds will go directly to PAVE and Youth Leads. It was wonderful to watch students and educators from around the country paint together and discuss what they had learned throughout the day. Witnessing their thoughtfulness and energy gave me hope that they will continue the work of the Summit in their communities.
SEXUAL ASSAULT IS AN ISSUE Leigh Tait, Program Assistant for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement A memorable moment for me was when a student from an all-boys school said that before coming to the Summit (which he only attended because a school administrator asked him to), he wasn't aware that sexual assault was an issue. He said that as a male surrounded constantly by other males, his experience has been warped by an inexposure to gender dynamics or related misconduct. At the end of the Summit, during the full-group share-out, he stood up to say that he wants to bring the conversation surrounding consent back to his community, and that he wants to model appropriate language and behavior for his peers. What a testament to the impact GDS students are having on their peers locally and around the country!
HE LEFT REALLY INSPIRED Rachel Gomez Peterson, Dean of Students at Paideia School, Georgia Back at Paideia, a colleague noted that it is the men on campus who need to help model awareness around gender issues for our male students. I explained that one of our students who attended the GDS conference, Giovanni, is very committed to starting a Boys Leading Boys chapter at Paideia and that it would be important for male faculty to join the group and help to facilitate conversations.
In speaking with Giovanni, he recognizes that his role as a peer leader will help facilitate the creation of this club and is hoping to recruit male-identifying students from each grade to be involved. On our way home from GDS, Giovanni and three other students were strategizing who they should ask to get involved [in their own Boys Leading Boys Group] from the various friend groups on campus. In speaking with Giovanni, he recognizes that his role as a peer leader will help facilitate the start of this club and is hoping to recruit male-identifying students from each grade to get involved. He left really inspired by Owen and the work that Owen has done to further the work of Boys Leading Boys at GDS.
I FELT THE IMPACT OF OUR WORK Sydney Schwalb ’20 I think the most impactful part of the summit was knowing that at the end of the day, hundreds of people would walk away with the knowledge, passion and tools required to make change. Throughout the day there were many moments that were moving and powerful, but a highlight was the one-on-one conversations I was able to have with fellow students. At the end of the day, I had the opportunity to engage in conversations with students from many different schools. While some of them asked me for advice on what to do next, most of them shared with me the initiatives they had already come up with. People were bursting with ideas such as: assemblies, movies, discussions, speakers, cross-school events, days like the summit and more. With each person that shared a new idea with me, I felt the impact of our work. I knew the summit had the power to change, educate and inspire each and every person who attended it but I had know how wide the scope of initiative and inspiration could be. Knowing that because of our work on this issue, there are now hundreds of student leaders standing beside us in advocating for this issue, is incredibly impactful.
INSPIRING SPACE Holly Hinderlie, Ph.D., Wellness Coordinator at Choate Rosemary Hall, Connecticut Personally, I was inspired by the 20 or so GDS students who helped develop the Summit. Their introductions of speakers, moderating the panel, facilitation of our school-based conversation were expertly done. My students were impressed by the number of students who attended the Summit and the wide diversity of schools that they attended. They were glad to see that there were several boys’ schools in attendance, too. Overall, it was energizing and inspiring to be in that space with so many young people ready to tackle the issue of sexual assault and consent.
EVERYDAY ADVOCACY Amy Killy, GDS High School Counselor Everyday advocacy starts with every day. It starts tonight, when you get home and you talk with your family. It is sharing with your friends what you learned and experienced and felt by being a part of this summit. Remember, it doesn’t have to be something extravagant to be something extraordinary.
We’re looking forward to staying in touch and hearing about all the great work you bring back to your schools.
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