10/16/2014 12:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Calling All Upstanding Men: Your Critical Role In Ending The Sexual Violence Epidemic


I've been incredibly lucky to have strong upstanding men in my life: my husband Phillip, our sons Jay and Jordan, my father and brother and countless other friends along the way. Raising our boys, Phillip and I aimed to shape their concept of what it means to be a man, raising them to be sensitive and respectful and teaching them to be a role model for others.

Through my philanthropy and advocacy work around the issue of domestic violence, I often find myself reflecting on the role these men play in my life. Even though men aren't always at the forefront around conversations of sexual violence, they play an incredibly important role. For those of us who are active and vocal around these topics, it's our job to invite and engage everyone, including the men in our lives, to become part of the conversation.

Through my foundation, When Georgia Smiled, we've launched some amazing initiatives that broaden the conversation. Recently, at our Domestic Violence Summit, we had experts on topics such as trauma, direct services, public perception, technology and corporate social responsibility. Those in attendance and the thousands who streamed online left the day feeling committed and hopeful that we can change the tide on the issue of domestic violence.

But our work is far from over! The conversation must continue, and we are hard at work finding ways to engage and empower new communities to become part of the solution to end sexual violence.

One community we are focused on is college students. Campus sexual assault is a serious issue that many student advocates are working hard to address. They are educating others on campus and petitioning their administration to change policies. To support these campus leaders, we launched the iAspire Grant, which provides up to $5,000 in funding to support campus leaders to scale or grow their initiatives.

As a mom of two sons, I know the majority of men out there are appalled by the terrible epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. These young men are speaking out and standing up as leaders on campus and in their community. We've seen amazing traction, and we couldn't be more thrilled to see the young men who are joining in the conversation about sexual assault through the #iAspire for Her Campaign.

But we also know that there are scores of other students who want to become part of the iAspire conversation — most notably, college athletes and upstanding young men. As athletes, these campus leaders are among the hardest working of their peers. They are influential on campus on and off the field, and they are stepping up to show their leadership through our latest initiative, iAspire for Her.

There have been some upsetting headlines in the sports world the past few weeks. That's why I am especially thrilled to see the collegiate athletes taking part in our iAspire for Her Challenge.

Athletes are displaying the name of a woman they love across their wrist and dedicating a social media post and their game to her. On the iAspire for Her wall, you can see a gallery of images of these upstanding young men (and women!) standing up and speaking out. When I saw their faces and read the names, I was moved to tears. These young people have made the connection that sexual violence can easily affect someone they love, and that by speaking out they are keeping their loved ones safer. I couldn't be more proud to see this important group of young leaders becoming part of the movement to end domestic violence. Making an impression on these young men at such a critical time in their life will truly have a lasting impact.

At When Georgia Smiled, we are committed to ending domestic violence. Whether through our Aspire News App, the Aspire curriculum, our commitment to the Girl Scouts, or our efforts on college campuses through the iAspire Grant and iAspire for Her challenge, each initiative is part of our broader effort to make real change.

I ask each of you to join in to make a difference with us! If you, or someone you love is an athlete — young, seasoned, pro, collegiate, or amateur — we hope that you will encourage them to show their strength and leadership off the field by taking part in the iAspire for Her campaign. Giving these young men a platform and encouraging them to be leaders provides an important piece of ending sexual violence on campuses and beyond.

If you or anyone you know might be in an abusive situation, I encourage you to visit, where you can find information and links to important resources.

With love,