Written by: Elyssa Campodonico-Barr

One in 4 girls will experience sexual abuse or assault before she turns 17. I keep repeating the statistic in my head. That is twenty five percent. 25%. ¼. No matter how I say “1 in 4”, the statistic is more and more horrific every time. This is where we are. 25%.

These harmful experiences have lasting impacts on girls, our families, and our communities. Sexual harassment and violence can lead to ongoing physical, mental, and economic consequences and can adversely affect the ability of girls to stay in school and retain employment, further limiting their opportunities. Our core belief at Girls Inc. is that every girl has the power and potential to affect change. In Indianapolis, we are equipping girls to become leaders of today and tomorrow. Girls Inc. girls are passionate, eager, and feel a real sense of obligation to make the world better. Why would we ever be okay with twenty five percent of these leaders experiencing trauma by unwanted harassment and assault? It’s not okay. It will never be okay. It’s time to make a change.

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Today, we live in gravely polarized times. When the topic of #MeToo comes up in conversation, we are dropped into binary buckets, either cast as a raging, bra-burning, feminist liberal or a woman-hating, red hat-wearing conservative. I ask that you put those pre-conceived notions away for now (hopefully forever). The safety and respect of girls is not a partisan issue. It is something we can all rally behind: the right for girls to have confidence in themselves and be safe in the world. That’s what Girls Inc. is here to do. But we need your help.

Girls Inc. takes a holistic approach to combating sexual violence, harassment and bullying by raising awareness of girls’ rights and schools’ obligations, and advocating for policies that promote safe learning environments and address the root causes of sexual violence.

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To tackle the issues of sexual harassment and violence, we need to talk to all youth about healthy relationships, power dynamics, boundaries, and consent. We must provide them comprehensive, medically-accurate, non-shaming, and inclusive sexuality information. Together, we can be part of the solution, but we can’t do it alone.

Today, on International Day of the Girl, please consider investing in a community where girls are receiving the respect they deserve, paving the way for our Greater Indianapolis leaders to thrive. We also need your voice to raise awareness by re-posting our social media and sharing why respect matters as an ally of our girls. Thank you for supporting our girls, our community, and our future.