Sunday, July 22, 2018
Education

High school students issue a domestic violence challenge: Get Loud! Break the Silence

Nine seconds.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a woman is domestically abused or violated every nine seconds in the United States.

But, that’s not a statistic that the public is generally aware of, and definitely not one you might expect to hear in the hallways of our local high schools.

Students across Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, including myself, are fighting to reverse the lack of awareness, get loud and break the silence.

In its fourth year, the annual Get Loud! Break the Silence basketball game at Robinson High School stands as proof teenagers have grown more cognizant of the issue and want to make a difference.

On Feb. 2, hundreds of students filed into the gym, clad in purple, the official color of domestic violence awareness. When the game tipped off, the talking stopped.

And the silence set in.

The only sounds came from the squeak of basketball shoes on the court, grunts from players and yells from referees and coaches.

Silence at a basketball game is unusual. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. It’s wrong. Speaking up as a victim or a witness to domestic violence is awkward and uncomfortable, but the silence is far more devastating with far greater ramifications.

Domestic violence surrounds all of us, yet sometimes we seem to be oblivious.

As the ball circled around the rim and fell into the hoop for the Knights’ ninth point, the fans erupted and the silence was broken.

Streamers filled the bleachers. Students shared hugs and tears. We set aside the final score, and placed the cause in the forefront. Without us getting loud, the pattern of violence will remain the same. It is time for us to step up and make sure people are aware.

And the annual Get Loud! game expanded this year. The founder, Katie Cassedy, partnered with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Spring when she first started this event in 2014.

Now a sophomore at Duke, she has passed down the event to her sister Carolina and other passionate students who helped extend its reach to Plant High and Wiregrass Ranch, stretching the awareness across two counties.

Some may argue that an event where no money is raised or work is done is not ideal. But I can promise you that awareness is just as crucial. Prior to being involved with Get Loud!, I thought domestic violence was a rare and distant occurrence.

I’ve since learned, however, it’s common and local. People left that game not just feeling like they made a difference, but with new information on potentially life-saving resources, like contacts at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay (call 211 or visit crisiscenter.com).

With recent cases like that of Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor convicted of sexual assault, it’s more important than ever for high school students to be educated about the issue of domestic violence and the importance of speaking up. The right people need to be educated and know what to do. Students can be both victims and resources.

Although statistics can easily be plastered on a billboard, I believe that directly connecting students to the issue creates the biggest impact. So I encourage you, next time domestic violence appears in any of its forms, speak up. Because the only way we can change the statistics is by getting loud.

It’s time to break the silence, Tampa Bay.

Macy McClintock is a junior at Robinson High and co-chair of the 2018 Get Loud! Domestic Violence Awareness campaign.

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