This speech was presented on the steps of SF City Hall by our YAC members for the 2019 Domestic Violence Awareness Month Kickoff. 

————— 10.02.2019

Good evening everyone, we are the Youth Advisory Council from API Legal Outreach. At YAC, we strive for an accepting and equitable future in which everyone is healthily loved.

 As youth in our communities, it is important we engage in work against domestic violence to educate our peers and prevent its occurrence in our everyday lives. Through this work, we believe in setting pathways to safety. YAC meets to share a safe and brave space, where we are able to become activists and create positive change within our communities. 

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month every year, YAC sets up presentations about teen dating violence to youth organizations, schools, and community spaces all over the Bay Area. We not only inform our peers to give them a better understanding of healthy and unhealthy relationships, but we also empower other youth and equip them with the skills and knowledge to make change in their own communities. 

As youth ourselves, we are able to directly connect with other youth and encourage them to be active and involved in their community. We believe in encouraging our young male-identifying peers to break the culture of silence regarding violence within our communities. We also seek to empower youth from the LGBT+ community, people of color, and women.

There are patriarchal and systematic effects that are prevalent in our underserved communities, specifically low income people of color. There are societal norms that places men in positions of power over women. In my experience as a young woman of color, I’ve seen the cultural and societal expectations of gender roles placed upon women of color that make it difficult for women of color to tell their truth. These marginalized women are survivors and deserve justice, but the justice system abuses their power to oppress this community. 

We believe that in order to be healthily loved, education is crucial. It is important to be able to identify an unhealthy relationship. For starters, in any relationship, it’s important that both partners know what consent really is. Consent is a strong and continuous yes. It is also a decision that cannot be influenced by substances or power imbalances. Another vital factor in safety and determining unhealthy relationships is the cycle of violence, a cycle in which the abuser (or abusers) trap the victim in an unhealthy relationship.

Through YAC’s presentations, we also stress the importance of a pragmatic yet optimistic mindset. Everyone should feel safe opening up to others, but we should also take the necessary precautions to ensure our safety and wellbeing. It is also crucial to be well informed of the reality of domestic violence, including some causes and societal factors that perpetuate this issue. This mindset combines positivity with practicality which can help to avoid violence and/or aggression.

YAC is important amongst San Francisco teens because we present students with accurate information about domestic violence and the resources they can use to confront these situations. often teens take to social media to speak about issues, but only to the extent of republishing a post. they don’t necessarily check their sources and this leads to people being misinformed and quickly disinterested. YAC is helpful in this way because it gives straightforward and reliable information on domestic abuse and dating violence as well as resources for people in those situations. This is especially needed in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, where there isn’t a strong sense of community or people to watch out for one another.

Too often, youth are unaware of the resources they can use if they find themselves in an unhealthy relationship. These resources include hotlines, restraining orders, and measures of self-defense. Through our presentations, YAC works to bring attention to these resources which are often not touched upon in school.

Our work as youth is equally, if not more, important as the work of previous generations. Our actions will lead to pathways to safety for our youth not only now, but as they grow into adulthood in the future. 

So we urge you all to listen to the youth around you. Encourage them to become involved in our communities. Provide them the support they need to make profound changes in our society. But most importantly, give them the resources to protect themselves and find pathways to safety in their environment.