Platform: Preventing Peer Abuse
What? “Preventing Peer Abuse” encompasses hazing, bullying, and dating abuse prevention.
Why? Peer-inflicted abuse affects girls, boys, women, and men of all ages and from all backgrounds by causing the victim to experience stress, lowered self-esteem, feelings of isolation and depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
Bullying increasingly concerns our nation, as teen suicides consistently appear in the news. Online bullying prevents victims from escaping harassment at school, increasing the severity. Nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying and 28% of students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
A largely publicized hazing incident occurred in 2011 when Robert Champion, a Florida A&M University drum major, tragically died after participating in a ritual in which he was violently beaten. This reminded the nation of the risks of hazing and its pervasiveness in society. In years past, hazing practices were often considered harmless pranks associated with young men in college fraternities. Today, we know hazing extends far beyond fraternities and is experienced by men and women in school groups of all ages, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations. In fact, 47% of students entering college have already been hazed and 55% of students experience hazing in college.
Similarly, dating violence gained notice in Virginia with the heartbreaking death of Yeardley Love, University of Virginia lacrosse player, in May 2010. The nation was reminded of the real risk and severity of relationship abuse. Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as older adults. This can include: Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
How? By raising awareness of the hurt cause by peer abuse through school and community presentations, I build the confidence in our youth to make good choices. Strong self-esteem will help students feel good about themselves despite the remarks of others, feel confident enough to get help when needed, and prevent passive bystander behavior. Sharing my personal story will show students how I turned a negative into a positive by using my experiences to shape me into the confident woman I am today.
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