Staff Photo - Emeri Jacobs
Members of GirlUp pose for a group photo on the wear blue day, as part of WHS' Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Events were held throughout the week to raise awareness and educate those in the school community.
The week before April Break, Winnacunnet’s GirlUp club sponsored a Sexual Assault Awareness Week to educate and spread awareness about the pervasive issues of sexual harrassment and assault in American society. Specifically, the week focused on educating those throughout the Winnacunnet community on the prevention of sexual assault.
According to GirlUp Co-President Lainey Parrott, the movement started after senior Cyrena Flaherty’s post on TikTok, a popular social media app, went viral bringing attention to instances of sexual assault within the WHS community.
"At the time, a statistic on TikTok was trending about the number of women that experience sexual harassment or assault in their life. The comment section on her video sparked people to call out their past abusers, mainly Winnacunnet boys,” Parrott said of the post. “We met with guidance counselors as well as administrators to talk about our concerns regarding the culture at Winnacunnet towards sexual assault, and we decided to host a sexual assault awareness week to better educate our community.”
GirlUp adviser Sarah Edgar said that administration was very supportive of the initiatives proposed by the club, including the Awareness Week.
“Mr. McGowan was extremely supportive of the club's proposals for short term and longer term goals that go beyond the Awareness Week,” Edgar said. “They would like to see curriculum changes to Wellness and classes at all grade levels, to provide a more comprehensive covering of the many aspects of this huge topic. For example, more discussion of consent, what to do if it happens to you or a friend, and how young men can feel empowered to be active bystanders who can help prevent assault.”
The awareness week encompassed multiple events, including informational social media posts throughout the week, and a self-defense class taught by School Resource Officer James Deluca. The week culminated in a wear teal or denim day. Teal is the official color of sexual assault awareness.
“Our first meeting when we announced our ideas and plans following the news of the TikTok, we had a huge turnout and it felt really great to be supported by the student body,” Parrott said. “We had tons of new members join and I was very proud of the students that stepped up.”
According to Parrott, the possible curriculum changes have been entertained before, and Winnacunnet alumni were involved in bringing these proposals forward in the past. She said that GirlUp as an organization is working to continue these conversations within the broader school community.
“The general culture at Winnacunnet needs to shift in order to protect victims of sexual assault and to stop this behavior,” Parrott said.
Edgar noted that GirlUp is always accepting members of all genders who are interested in promoting feminism. She said they will also be holding a t-shirt fundraiser within the first few weeks in May.
“I am so proud of all the group members for their hard work to bring attention to this issue,” Edgar said. “The way they have been able to take their emotional response to the tragedy of sexual assault and channel it into positive outreach to their peers is inspiring.”