June 6, 2016
“When enough of us stand together and speak out, we can make changes happen. Young women like myself have a fundamental right to our personal safety. Schools and other institutions are not doing enough to protect that safety.” -Billi, Homies member
On Saturday, Toledo community members and organizations, including YWCA and AAUW, joined the FLOC Homies Union for a Women’s Empowerment March to raise awareness of sexual harassment and abuse toward women, empower women to speak out about these issues, and encourage institutions like the Toledo Public Schools to address these issues in a meaningful way.
Harley Foore, a member of the FLOC Homies Union, spoke at the rally following the march. “When The Homies first got together as a class, we began talking about issues that we saw in our community,” said Foore. “We quickly discovered that all of the girls in the class had at one point or another been harassed on the street or in our school…this made us feel unsafe and kept us from walking anywhere by ourselves.”
Billi Zimmerman, another Homies member, courageously spoke about her own experience with sexual harassment. “When I was in elementary school I was sexually harassed. I spoke up and nobody took me seriously. They thought I was lying. My principal told me that there was nothing she could do since there was no evidence. How can there be no evidence when the incident happened right in front of a camera? Why am I being called a liar and why not being believed especially when over half of girls will be sexually harassed in high school?”
One of the goals of the march was to press institutions like Toledo Public Schools to do more to keep women safe. Foore, a student at a Toledo high school noted, “Toledo Public Schools do not currently offer any training on sexual harassment or consent. They have nothing in the student handbook that talks about sexual harassment or consent. How is this acceptable?”
The Homies have scheduled a meeting with Toledo Public Schools superintendent Durant next week, and plan to ask him to begin talking to students about issues like sexual harassment, rape, and consent. “Ultimately we want him to start listening to the female students at his school, and to take their concerns seriously,” says Foore.