National Action Network’s (NAN) Youth Move stood up for 16-year-old Houston native, Jada (of the #IAMJADA online movement) and other victims of sexual abuse on Monday, July 21. Founded by Ashley Sharpton, the weekly “Huddle” program focuses on creating an environment that allows youth to meaningfully interact with tomorrow’s leaders, community members, parents and teachers.
“Have you all heard about the incident in Daytona Beach,” asked Huddle Moderator Patrice Perry, introducing the program’s topic. “Friday night a father walked in on his son being sexually assaulted by his neighbor, Raymond Frolander.” She went on to explain that the 11-year-old child had been molested for three years.
“Why do you think victims of rape keep quiet,” asked Perry. “Why don’t they speak out?”
Collectively, the Huddle members had brain stormed many reasons for why a victim of sexual violence may not come forward about their situation: Fear, Shame, Self-blame. However, Huddler Antonio Hairston reminds parents that they may also play a role in producing silent victims.
He explains that raising a child with the “you have no say” or “be seen and not heard” mentality does not always translate into discipline or having a firm hand; it can be harmful. “You have to raise your child to have no secrets, let them know they have a voice,” said Hairston. “If your child does not trust you, it doesn’t matter how much wisdom you have, they won’t talk to you.”
At Monday night’s Huddle, two members were moved to share their stories as victims of sexual abuse. One young Huddler, who’s name has been excluded to protect the child’s’ identity, was molested at a Pathmark on Friday, March 14. Teary eyed and struggling to regain control of her voice, the victim’s mother explained that a man went under the stall in the bathroom and touched her son.
“When a person becomes a victim of rape, his or her world is turned upside down,” said Perry. “And hurt people, hurt people.” She goes on to explain that without help, many individuals never properly cope or deal with the situation. Those people can even go on to inflict the same type of detrimental and life altering experience on another person.
“I would just like us all to remember why we are discussing this tonight,” said NAN’s Youth Move founder Ashley Sharpton, heading towards the center of the circle. “A 16-year-old girl named Jada went to a party, was drugged, raped, and then woke up the next morning to find out it was all over the internet.” Sharpton expresses concern that so many young people reposted, tweeted and took part in making the #Jadapose viral.
“Rape isn’t funny,” said Sharpton. “And if something happens to you, you tell!”
The Huddle, which takes place every Monday evening from 7 – 9 p.m. at The House of Justice on 106 W. 145th Street., Harlem, ended the night on a much lighter note. The youth gathered around as local artist Michael Harewood, known on stage as Forever, took the spotlight and encouraged the Huddlers to join in on his uplifting words. He believes that not all rap has to incorporate the negativity often portrayed in the music industry.
“I’m still here,” chanted Forever. “By the grace of God!” shouted the Huddlers.
The Huddle is available via live stream weekly on nationalactionnetwork.net, and food and refreshments are provided for Huddle attendees.