Got Consent? is a student-run initiative that aims to raise awareness around sexual assault among high school students in Williamson County. Julia Cook, a senior at Franklin High School, is the mind behind this campaign. “Let’s just say some dates don’t end well and leave it at that,” according to Cook. But all too often, she suggests, victims feel silenced and shamed by the experience.
She wants every teen in Williamson County to have the tools to speak up when they encounter sexual assault, or have a friend who becomes a victim. This is why she came up with the Got Consent? campaign and created a pledge for her fellow students to sign, modelled after the pledge the University of Virginia offers in their campus-wide sexual assault awareness program.
In addition to the pledge, there are opportunities for students to learn more about boundaries and the importance of consent. Another key part of this campaign is Circle of Six, a free phone app that students use to cultivate a close group of trusted friends, family, and other supporters who can respond if an uncomfortable or threatening situation occurs.
Cook is partnering with the DiversityLeadershipProject.org website to launch her campaign asking all high school students in the Williamson County community sign the Got Consent? Pledge and join her in getting involved in beginning a dialogue around the issue.
At the heart of this initiative is her belief that talking about sexual assault is something very important that shouldn’t be “swept under the rug.” She knows her peers are encountering it, and trying to deal with it – often on their own. National statistics back up this belief: approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been victims of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“As high school students, we are mature enough to talk about consent and boundaries,” Cook said. “There are also laws surrounding issues of consent that many students may not be familiar with, and it’s important they understand. Our goal is to educate teens and empower them with the tools they need to say ‘that’s not OK.’”
Diversity Leadership Project cofounder Randall Bedwell is excited about how this initiative could impact not only the local community but other communities across the country. He’s been impressed by Cook’s dedication to the project, and to the safety of her peers.
“Competitive colleges are looking for students like Julia who demonstrate a passion and act on it,” he said. “It is heartening to see one of our Diversity Leadership Project students speak out against an issue that has long been stigmatized. Julia’s gaining a lot of support from her new friends who want to get involved. She’s making a difference.”
Watch Julia’s video above and view the Got Consent? Pledge at www.diversityleadershipproject.org/got-consent.