March 2018 "We Won't Back Down"

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." -Anne Bradstreet

Spring is here (even if it doesn’t feel like it in Nashville right now)! February was a short month filled with countless lobbying meetings, phone calls, and email blasts; we also trained seven new teacher volunteers, and we laid the groundwork for a really wonderful and plentiful March.

Starting this month, our healthy relationships & finances curriculum is in three sites with MNPS & the YMCA’s Z Program (Haynes, Antioch, and Donelson Middle), with Big Brothers Big Sisters’ after school program (with an added conflict management program with Small World Yoga!), and again with End Slavery’s safe house of survivors of human trafficking. Since we wrote this curriculum and began implementing it with our community partners, we have educated over 200 students and women of the warning signs of unhealthy relationships, how to handle conflict respectfully, and how to be financially independent. We are so humbled to continue to be asked back to teach our class by every community partner we’ve ever worked with, and we continue to look for new opportunities to bring our curriculum to more students and women across the state. (Know a program or group that would be interested in teaching our curriculum? Email us at info@awaketn.org!)

Those emails you sent on behalf of our legislation? THEY WORKED! We are so proud to report we continue to have a 100% success rate for drafting, lobbying for, and passing important legislation to improve the lives of women and kids in Tennessee. Both our introduced bills PASSED and are heading to the governor’s desk. Wahoo!

2018’s bills were a clean up bill to last year’s domestic violence offender notification law and a bill to bridge two pieces of law to allow for outside expert groups to come into public schools and teach on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse.

Our DV bill moved through its committees swiftly and passed early in the month; since it was just cleaning up our earlier bill (making definitions clear and referencing both state and federal law), it did not face any opposition. But this bill is still an enormous improvement in the law; we created the form offenders must fill out when convicted of domestic violence. The form now lists the make and model of all guns owned and is signed under penalty of perjury. Before last year’s bill (and this year’s clean up), defendants were simply told they had to give up their firearms, but there was no procedure in place.

Our child sexual abuse prevention education bill (we clearly don’t pass bills with short names!) was a larger undertaking that took the coordination of multiple community partners and experts, lobbying meetings with almost every member of every committee in both houses, and multiple amendments, but we did it. You all did it. As our advocacy director, Danielle Johns said, “I have no doubt that the trajectory of the lives of many children across Tennessee just changed for the better. If one less child was sexually abused or one more child was empowered to report sexual abuse through the efforts of so many on this legislation, it was completely worth it!”

Thank you to the fierce and unflinching advocates at Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and the Sexual Assault Center who helped us strategize, took meetings, organized survivors, and were total partners in this effort. Thank you to our survivors whose brave testimony put a human face on the problem (and for all the times you came ready to testify & weren’t heard). Thank you to Jill Heaviside, Danielle Johns, and Katie Sochacki who spearheaded this effort, missed classes/work for this effort, and labored hard for this effort. And thank you to our incredible volunteers who called, emailed, and showed up in meetings to advance this vital piece of legislation.This was a hard but worthy fight.

So now, we deserve a night of celebration! Join us on April 12th from 5:30-7:30pm at the Bound’ry for our first annual Spring AWAKEning. There will be appetizers, wine, and information on our already busy 2018; we are so proud to improve the lives of women and children in Tennessee through education and policy change, so come hang with us, celebrate with us, and support us as we continue our mission. Tickets and opportunities to host or join our Inner Circle are available on the site.

Hope to you all at Spring AWAKEning. Keep fighting, friends.