This post was contributed by Grace Wickerson, NYAB member and founder of Kickin’ Violence
If you told me when I was a little kid that by age 18 I would be running a nonprofit that has impacted young people and domestic violence survivors across the United States and even around the world, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Honestly, if you told me that when I started my organization, Kickin’ Violence, in August of 2013, I probably still wouldn’t have believed you.
Kickin’ Violence is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that seeks to inspire youth involvement in non-violence advocacy through education, service, technology and martial arts. We started as a small self-defense training program for girls. We have since expanded into a multi-dimensional organization that supports student action teams in schools in four states, influences state legislation for anti-violence education reform, creates care packages for domestic violence survivors across the country and around the world, and teaches kids to code solutions to alleviate violence. We do all of this with the philosophy “by youth, for youth,” because we believe that engaging youth at a peer-to-peer level is the key to creating a community rallied against violence – and soon, a future without violence.
I work towards this future because violence is an epidemic that ruins lives. Domestic violence statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence show that one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. If statistics aren’t something you can relate to, then a quick Google search of “domestic violence” yields a sobering amount of results.
Domestic violence thrives when nobody cares to look. When it exists behind closed doors, it becomes a “not my problem” kind of problem. It thrives off of traditional gender binaries, a world divided in two by hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity. We encourage boys to be aggressive in order to get what they want. We tell girls that harassment or stalking “must mean he likes you.” Young people aren’t born violent. Violence is something that is learned and passed down from generation to generation. And when these behaviors are passed down as the “norm” and become ingrained, they can be difficult to reverse. What you end up with is another generation taught that violence is okay or even justified. How can we end domestic violence if violence is all we know?
That is the reason why I am so focused on youth, especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s because they still have the power to change their own attitudes and behaviors and influence their peers. They have the ability to view unhealthy behaviors and say “No, that’s not okay,” or “No, you shouldn’t treat someone that way.” They have a willingness to take action and make a difference in the world. They have the drive to create a more respectful and peaceful future, and they only need the tools to do so.
So, if you’re someone who wants to take action this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I encourage you to find a way to get involved – no matter where you live or how old you are. Look for opportunities in your community. You can also take part in Kickin’ Violence’s “Survivor Packs: Care Packages for Domestic Violence Survivors” initiative. Learn more on our website, kickin-violence.org, and lead360.jeffersonawards.org.
I challenge you to make a difference this October and beyond. Who knows who you might impact and what movement you might lead!