Summer break can expose children to unsupervised time alone, which may lead to possible uncomfortable situations and other dangers, especially for young girls.
In an effort to engage young girls and increase their personal safety, a group of Homestead Middle School female students was privy to special conversation revolving around domestic violence, rape culture and human trafficking last Thursday.
The special presentation, “Girl Power … Embrace It!,” brought together domestic violence advocates, police officers and community leaders, who spoke to some 90 female students aged 12 through 15, about the warning signs of inappropriate behavior from abusers and what to do if they find themselves in that situation. The presentation was possible through a partnership with the Embrace Girls Foundation and the U.S Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
The young girls were helped to understand terms like rape and sexting, as well as concepts like domestic violence and human trafficking, and to whom they can turn for safety and protection.
Throughout the Homestead community, there is fear in reporting inappropriate behavior, said Principal Contessa Bryant, which motivated the special presentation, especially as the school year is set to conclude. “We want to make sure that going into the summer that our girls are safe,” Bryant said, “that they are aware, alert and that they know how to keep themselves safe.”
The girls heard from Andrea Kelly, the former wife of singer R. Kelly and mother of their three children, who came forward with her story of domestic violence in 2017. Others have accused Robert Kelly of sexual assault.
According to theGrio and the New York Times, Robert Kelly in February was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of minors. Nine of the 10 counts against Kelly, involve alleged victims who at least age 13 but no older than 17 years old. Last Thursday, additional charges were filed in Chicago, including aggravated criminal sexual assault.
“Love and violence never come together,” Kelly told the girls. ‘They are like water and oil. They never mix.”
Kelly warned the girls about tactics used by abusers to manipulate them to do things for them, oftentimes of sexual nature.
“Think about the price versus the cost,” she said. “Is this going to cost me my wellbeing, my freedom, my life?”
Often abusers use material goods such as expensive designer clothes and accessories, cars, electronics and other tangible goods to create a false sense of security and coerce girls into unhealthy, violent relationships, or into human trafficking and prostitution.
Such behavior should be a red flag, Kelly told the girls. She warned them about the charming, sweet talk that abusers employ and noted any demand to stay silent about their gifts and encounters is a warning sign that should not be ignored.
“I want young girls and women to understand the price for something. Let’s say the price of car, do you know the cost?” Kelly told The Miami Times. She wants young girls to be aware that unwarranted gifts from outsiders, other material goods, even promises for a better life are telltale signs of abusive behavior and manipulation tactics used by abusers.
“I think if they were able to make that parallel and understand it gives them a better perspective that these things that you are giving me and the price of these things are not worth the cost of my life,” Kelly said.
The girls were advised to speak out and tell an adult if they encounter any inappropriate behavior from men and women.
“Tell someone,” said Stephanie Daniels, assistant director with the Miami-Dade Police Department. She advised the girls to reach out to the police department anytime they fear for their safety. “We encourage you to find that strength to tell someone,” Daniels said. “If you don't tell someone it will continue to occur.”
And though this session was for young girls, Bryant said in Homestead Middle School, the same conversation is happening with young boys with the help of groups like the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project and other male figures.
“They have constant communication with our boys and they share this type of information with them,” Bryant said.