I Kick and I Fly: Empowering Teens in the Fight Against Sexual Violence
May 1, 2023
Teen sexual violence, including their sex trafficking has seen a dramatic rise in the USA since 2020. A recent study by the CDC found that 13.5% of girls said they have been forced to have sex—an 18% increase since 2019 and one in 10 said they had been raped. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children additionally reports that the ages of trafficking victims has gone down and that children account for more than half of all trafficking victims in America.
A panel of experts and practitioners included Charlotte Clymer, Writer, Transgender Activist, Communications Consultant, and Military Veteran who moderated the panel, Dr. Kathleen Ethier, Director, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Ruchira Gupta, Journalist and author of, I Kick and I Fly. The panelilsts offered best practices and solutions on how to combat this heartbreaking trend. They discussed what educational and emotional resources adults can put in place to give young people the resources they need on how to spot the warning signs of sexual violence and human trafficking, how to stand up to predators, how to protect themselves and seek help.
Content Warning: Tonight's discussion contained descriptions of and references to violence and sexual assault.
Charlotte Clymer, Writer, Transgender Activist, Communications Consultant, Military Veteran
She writes “Charlotte’s Web Thoughts”, a blog/newsletter about politics, current events, and LGBTQ equality. In 2021, she signed an exclusive one-year deal with Substack to host her blog on their site.
She was most recently the Director of Communications & Strategy at Catholics for Choice.
Prior to that role, she served as the Press Secretary for Rapid Response at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) equality. Her day-to-day work involved running the organization’s messaging in response to the White House and federal policy.
Her political and social commentary has been quoted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and numerous other outlets. Her work has been published in USA Today, The Washington Post, NBC News, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, GQ, The Independent, and other publications. She has also been a guest commentator on MSNBC and CBS Sunday Morning.
She serves on the D.C. Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Board of Directors for the Center for Law and Military Policy, the Military and Veterans Advisory Council for Modern Military Families of America and the Advisory Councils for Running Start and the Lone Star Parity Project, organizations working toward gender parity in elected office.
She is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Class of 2019.
She was named to Fortune Magazine’s 2020 40 under 40 list in the “Politics & Government” category and the 2019 40 under 40 Queer Women of D.C. by the Mayor’s Office and The Washington Blade.
She is a graduate of Georgetown University and resides in Washington, D.C.
Kathleen Ethier, Director, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Kathleen Ethier, PhD is the Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) in the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Ethier brings a wealth of public health experience and leadership in addressing health issues of youth and women, with a focus on HIV, STDs, and teen pregnancy, as well as supporting program improvement, strategic programs, and monitoring and evaluation. She most recently served as the Director of CDC’s Program Performance and Evaluation Office, where she contributed to advancing CDC program strategy, performance measurement, and evaluation.
Prior to joining CDC, Dr. Ethier spent six years on the research faculty at Yale University working on studies of HIV, STDs, and unplanned pregnancy prevention among women and adolescents. In 1999, she joined CDC as a Senior Scientist in the Division of STD Prevention to lead the development and evaluation of interventions to prevent HIV, STDs, and teen pregnancy. She has served in a variety of leadership and management roles at CDC, including Acting Director of the Financial Management Office and the Division of Oral Health, as well as lead for the Adolescent Health Goal Team.
Dr. Ethier’s research has included psychosocial, behavioral, organizational and clinical factors related to women’s health, maternal health and adolescent sexual and reproductive health. She has authored or co-authored numerous articles and book chapters for peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Ethier earned her PhD in social psychology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Ruchira Gupta, Journalist
Ruchira Gupta is an Emmy winning journalist and founder of the anti sex trafficking NGO, Apne Aap that helps women and girls exit systems of prostitution. I Kick and I Fly is her debut fiction novel.
She has been given the French Ordre National du Mérite, Clinton Global Citizen Award, and the UN NGO CSW Woman of Distinction among other honors for her contribution to the establishment of the UN Trafficking Fund for Survivors, the passage of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act and her grassroots activism with Apne Aap. She has co-wriiten a book with Gloria Steinem, As if Women Matter and edited two anthologies, River of Flesh and Renu’s letters to Birju Babu.
She holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Smith College. Ruchira has worked for the United Nations in Nepal, Thailand, Kosovo, Iran, and USA. She teaches occasionally as a visiting professor at New York University.
She divides her time between New York and Forbesganj, her childhood home in the foothills of the Himalayas, where she paints her mother’s garden.
About the Book
Fourteen-year-old Heera knows she is living on borrowed time when she is expelled from school. There is no food at home and her father wants to sell her into the sex trade. She has no means to fight back until a woman’s rights advocate enrolls her in her Kung Fu class. Through it, Heera learns that her body isn’t an object to be preyed upon, but a vessel to free herself.