Editor’s Note: On Oct. 10 the annual dinner for the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence featured now 17-year-old Ana Goble of the Concord schools as the speaker. All parents of Bow students should consider discussing her courage with your children. Excerpts of her remarks follow:
I unknowingly became an advocate when I was 13 years old and in 7th grade. I was made to feel uncomfortable when I noticed one of my teachers was acting inappropriately with some of my peers. I felt as though he was crossing boundaries and something in my gut told me it wasn’t right.
Since elementary school we had been told “if you see something, say something” and “tell a trusted adult if you ever feel unsafe.” So, that’s what I did. I confided in a friend that some of my teacher’s actions were unsettling and I didn’t feel right about it.
When the word got back to administrators at my school, I was called to the principal’s office. I thought to myself: “This is great; they heard my concerns and now something will be finally be done about it.”
Yes, something was done alright. I was suspended. I was suspended because my concerns weren’t taken seriously. My worries about safety and the well-being of my peers were not listened to. In fact, I was punished for trying to speak up for a victim who couldn’t speak up for themselves.
Years later, this very same teacher would face criminal charges for sexually assaulting students while still being employed by the school.
Before voicing my concerns — I struggled with whether or not it was worth it. Was it my place to say something? Was I overreacting? Would I be believed? What would happen? Everyone loved this teacher and there’s no way he could actually be doing this. It would be my word against his.
I can only imagine how difficult the decision to come forward would be for a survivor — I was just a concerned bystander and it was tough for me to find the courage to say something. But, that is exactly why I had to do it. That is exactly why others should speak up, too. Survivors need to know they are not in this alone, and perpetrators need to know that this will not be tolerated, and that violence and abuse have no place in New Hampshire.
Talking about these issues might seem uncomfortable. Trust me, I get it. Acknowledging that these things happen in our schools and our neighborhoods can be scary. Trying to come to terms with the fact that your coworker, our teacher, our coach or our neighbor could be a predator — that’s terrifying. I get that. But, being silent only allows these things to continue.
As a teenager living in New Hampshire, I’m telling you that these problems aren’t going away. We still have a long way to go. But, the good news is that we can all do our part.
I can tell you that speaking up is worth it. Standing up for others is worth it. Doing all you can to make sure no other child is victimized is worth it. Showing up and holding others accountable so no one else is hurt — that is worth it.
Choosing to look the other way or to count on others to step in, that is not acceptable. That is not helpful. That is not compassionate. That sends the message to survivors and to perpetrators that we are OK with abuse and violence happening in our community.
To survivors and to my peers — I want you to know that I’m with you. Yes, adults failed in this case. But, I want you to know that our generation has your back. Enough is enough. It’s time to talk about these issues because they’re not going away and they ARE preventable.
We’re going to do better, and I challenge everyone here to do their part. Whether that’s volunteering, donating, confronting a sexist joke, or telling someone when you feel uncomfortable — take action.
Like I said, if 13-year-old me can do it — you can do it.
The task of ending domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse may seem overwhelming — you may think it is a weight too heavy to carry. For one person, or one group of people — yes, it’s far too heavy. But, if we all take a piece and do our part — we can eliminate these crimes.