Last week at Manhattan Country School, the seventh- and eighth-graders led a community activism teach-in as part of their “Shatter the Silence, Stop Domestic Violence” campaign. Before the event, the activism committee brainstormed ways to talk to students and parents about how to fight domestic violence.
They focused their campaign on three demands: Keep guns out of the hands of abusers, teach healthy relationships and increase funding for domestic violence shelters. They prepared to address challenging questions such as:
- Why do we want to lobby?
- What does abuse look like?
- How common is domestic violence?
- How does domestic violence happen?
The assembly started with students introducing basic facts about domestic violence in America. “One in four women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence,” said an activism committee representative. They played a short video about abusive relationships titled “That’s Not Love”
Afterwards, an activism representative asked, “How can you build relationships that are respectful and healthy in the digital world?” Parents and students in the audience shared their responses, including:
- “You should try to be respectful about what you are sending to each other”
- “Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say to them. Sometimes when you text, you are emotional and might be forgetting there is a real person on the other side.”
- “It made me think about how powerless the other person must feel, the one who needs to control so much.”
Then the students shared a short part of the film “The Mask You Live In,” which focused on male roles in the media.
Following the film, an activism committee rep asked the audience, “What are these examples teaching?” Adults raised their hands to share responses, including:
- “That they [men] are supposed to be superhuman.”
- “The idea that if you want something, take it.”
- “They are teaching that the correct response to pain is violence.”
- “In the video, it seems like men respond with anger.”
The assembly ended with the students sharing examples of what they plan to do to address this issue. They are running a drive to support Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit organization that supports domestic violence survivors. They held an assembly with the entire Upper School, and are planning to present workshops about healthy relationships to younger people. They have a social media campaign and are starting a podcast centered on this campaign, and they are organizing and fundraising for their lobbying trip to Albany.