Who I am: From a Single Idea to a Functioning Program
I thought I would share a little background about myself, and why I decided to start my website/ program in the first place. My name is McKenzie, and I am the Founder of We Can Say No. I am a college student who is passionate about helping others who experience sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In addition to that, I am very passionate about advocating in the prevention of child sexual abuse. We Can Say No is a support, prevention, and education based program focused on ending sexual harassment in schools. While its focus is preventing and educating students about sexual harassment, I place a high emphasis on sexual assault and child sexual abuse as well.
As far as sexual harassment goes, this is something that I know about all too well. My passion for advocating, preventing, and educating students about this matter started in ninth grade. I was sexually harassed in eighth grade for the first time. When it happened, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even realize that it was called sexual harassment. I also was not aware that my school had a sexual harassment policy. That’s when I started researching it further. The more information I found, the more I wanted to do something about it. Then, just shy of a year later I was sexually harassed again as a freshman. I was pinned down and groped repeatedly by one of my classmates. That was the last straw. I decided that I had enough, and that I needed to step up on my own and take action.
I became interested in advocating for the prevention of sexual assault shortly after the ninth-grade incident. I know that if I wasn’t in a classroom when that happened, that things could have been a lot worse. In eleventh grade I decided that I needed to do something about sexual harassment. I started emailing school administrators about what an issue I felt it was. Shortly after, with the help of my assistant principal John Testa, I started my journey towards developing my website and program. That was four years ago, and I have come such a long way since. In February of 2016, I gave my first presentation on sexual harassment to eighth grade health students in my city. I have also worked to develop my own curriculum. Along with those things, I have created an informational pamphlet for students. There is so much more to do, and I plan to keep doing everything I can to bring awareness to these important issues.
My goal is to help as many students as possible, all across the country. From guiding them on how to report sexual harassment, to working towards the eventual goal of making sure schools all across the United States have a sexual harassment policy and a curriculum to teach their students. I am trying to do everything I possibly can to ensure that students learn in a non-discriminatory, positive environment.
I also believe that it is very important to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault, especially on college campuses. Victim blaming is a major issue when it comes to sexual violence, and it is important to make people aware of this. Believing survivors is essential for putting an end towards sexual assault.
In addition to the above items, I am very interested in advocating for the prevention of child sexual abuse. I believe that EVERY child should be able to go through their childhood happy and healthy. It is my mission to do everything in my absolute power to ensure that that is exactly what happens, regardless of what capacity that would be in. I will do everything it takes to stop this heinous crime from happening in the future, including putting all of my attention and focus into helping victims of abuse, first and foremost.
Stewards of Children online training: Child Sexual Abuse awareness and prevention training. Completed September 9th, 2017.
Safetalk: Suicide Alertness for everyone training. Completed February 26th, 2016.
New York State Office of Children and Family Services: Mandated Reporter Training: Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Completed May 22, 2018.