On a cold February morning, a dozen Eastside high school students arrived in Olympia. They were excited to participate in Domestic Violence Advocacy Day for the first time. The members of GOVAA (Gender Orientated Violence Advocacy and Activism), an after-school club at Interlake High School, all share a deep commitment to supporting survivors of gender-based violence and promoting healthy relationships within their school and communities. Many have experienced domestic violence in their own families or watched friends struggle with dating violence and unhealthy relationships. They were eager to tell their stories and, as one student shared, “change the world.”
In the morning, the students gathered with DV advocates from across the state to learn about legislation affecting survivors. Many of the youth were surprised by how many of the bills aimed at preventing homelessness and addressing poverty would also help survivors of domestic violence. By the time they met with their representatives, the students felt energized to “improve the lives of our community members.”
Their enthusiasm was contagious. After sharing their personal stories about gender-based violence and how violence impacted their family and friends, a legislative aide told LifeWire’s Social Change Manager, “they are powerful.”
Young people have a tremendous ability to shift culture if we empower them. The youth only spent a day in Olympia, but it had ripple effects in the community and their lives. Several of the bills the youth advocated for became law, increasing protections for survivors and low-income families. GOVAA is looking for other ways to enact policy changes on the Eastside. And one of the students has decided to run for student body office next year.