Changing the culture that leads to domestic violence.

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Youth Activists Making a Difference in Their School

February is teen dating violence awareness month.  One in three teenagers’ experiences some form of dating abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse. In fact, 17.3% of 9-12th grade girls in Indiana have reported being sexually assaulted or raped. This is higher than the 10.5% of girls who reported nationally.  Sexual violence, as well as domestic violence, is 100% preventable. The Domestic Violence Network (DVN) engages students every day on prevention efforts. Educating our youth is only the beginning-to truly get in front of this epidemic we need to change the culture that leads to domestic violence and sexual assault. We empower our youth to advocate in their schools to promote nonviolence and create a cultural of kindness, empathy and compassion. I’m so proud to share this letter, written by a central Indiana middle school student. She collaborated with several friends on the content and they recently delivered it to their school administrators, who have agreed to meet with them to further discuss their issues.

Greetings Principals from Central Indiana Middle School,

A dynamic young lady here speaking on behalf of many girls attending Central Indiana Middle School. We have a few concerns about the dress code. We feel as though it is directed towards the girls and the boys get a bit of a ‘blind eye’ when they break it, but when us girls do we get called out. I completely agree that we should keep Central Indiana Middle School a professional learning environment, but in the bottom paragraph of page 9 in the agenda, it starts with ‘if the students clothing or appearance seems to interfere with the educational process, the student will be asked to alter his/her dress to meet the guidelines.’ That statement confuses me because on the front page of the agenda (paragraph 5) it states ‘our goal is to challenge you academically, help you grow socially and emotionally, and guide you toward independent thinking and problem solving’. I do not believe those two statements go together. If your goal is to challenge us academically, why are you pulling us out of class because our outfit is ‘interfering with the educational processes? If you want to help us grow socially, and emotionally, why are you making us worry about small insignificant things like if our shoulders are showing or if our pants are ‘too tight’? If you want us to have independent thinking and solving skills, why are we forced to depend on your rules on how to dress ourselves?

Some might say that you are just trying to help us get our education in a safe environment, but I personally spend more time worrying about if my outfit meets the dress code more than my grades. Yes, this problem is that bad. While I believe that middle schoolers need limits and that rules like shirts shouldn’t advertise bad messages, I also believe that shoulders showing are not a big deal, which brings me to another point. My friends have been told to hide their bra straps before and that is one of the things I don’t believe is okay. During middle school, most kids bodies change and that is okay!  What’s not okay is telling girls that they need to hide their bra strap because believe it or not most girls in middle school wear a bra! I do, my friends do, and girls do in general. If you are thinking ‘too much info right now’ than that just proves my point. Girls already feel self-conscious about their bodies; we don’t need more people commenting on our clothes while we are already doing that to ourselves.

Time for my next point- leggings. I think we both saw this coming. The ones I wear are 96% cotton and 4% spandex. I never knew that 4% could make such a difference, but now it does. I do not mean to offend you when I say that I believe the whole finger tip rule is pointless*. It is mine and many other’s beliefs that if you are wearing a shirt or jacket that covers your bottom, there should not be a problem. The same applies to yoga pants. I, along with many others, agree that ‘tight pants’ should be allowed to be worn to school. If I’m going to learn, I want to be comfy while doing it. The whole ‘distraction’ argument tires me, if I’m being honest. I am not a distraction. My friends are not a distraction. Girls at Central Indiana Middle School are not a distraction. To pull us out of class for wearing a ‘distracting article of clothing’ is like yelling ‘I CARE MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE WEARING THAN YOUR EDUCATION.’ I say this because while you are talking to us, while we call our parents, while we change, or once we leave, we are missing out on information that might ‘challenge us academically, help us grow socially and emotionally and guide us towards independent thinking and problem solving.’

If your objective is for boys not to be distracted-aka- staring at our breasts and bottoms all day, then have I got some points for you. We need to teach boys to respect girls, not teach girls to cover up. Let me repeat, we need to teach boys to respect girls, not teach girls to cover up. You know what? Third time is a charm, so we need to teach boys to respect girls, not teach girls to cover up. I hope I made my point because I am tired of writing those 14 words over and over again. How you might ask? To that, I say the same way you thought the girls should cover up. Cover their eyes, mouths and tie their hands. Wait, that doesn’t sound fun, does it? Well that’s the reality for us girls because we feel as though our eyes have been covered, for we can’t fully choose what we want to wear to represent ourselves. Our mouths are covered because no matter what we say, we get called attention seekers and excuse my language, sluts. Our hands are tied because we are getting punished for such a small act when you could be spending your time raising awareness for this problem, but here you are, enforcing it on us 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Now it’s time to do my favorite part of this type of writing- the solution. I’ve stated all the problems so now it’s time for me to say how I believe it should be resolved. I believe that girls shoulders should be allowed to show and that girls should be allowed to wear leggings/tights/yoga pants as long as their bottom isn’t showing. I believe this because of all the reasons I have listed plus all the other reasons flying around in my head. I would love to have a civil conversation some time about this with you three before school, during lunch, or at any other available time. The people who wish to speak about this problem with you all include but are not limited to myself, as well as 5 other young dynamic ladies. I hope to speak with you all in the near future and hope you all have a great week.



*the finger tip rule refers to skirts, dresses and shirts coming to a girls finger tips when she has her arms at her side.