The Be Project: Empowering Youth to be part of the solution to end relationship violence

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May 4, 2017


Dear Dudes - By: Matt Jacobs

Dear Dudes,


All month long, we celebrated, championed, advocated, and maybe even mourned all those impacted by sexual assault and those that work with survivors of sexual assault. We got the word out through old-school techniques like face to face meetings and more fresh ideas like spreading awareness through SnapChat or Instagram. I highly recommend checking out #SAAM2017, there’s some really cool stuff there!


But there is still one voice missing. It’s grown a lot since I got into the prevention game nearly 7 years ago. Some people may shun this voice, but I say “Hey! The more voices, the louder we can be!” -- and that is still men’s voices. Back in 2010, I remember, vividly, attending a conference about sexual assault and domestic violence. I attended a few of the sessions and surprisingly walked away feeling like “I’m nothing but the bad guy, I can’t possibly help.” And rightly so, I can understand the passion for this line of work and that passion may come off as bitterness or hostility towards certain individuals. But I can’t let that stop me. I not only wanted to help, but I also found that I needed to help this cause. But that was 2010…it’s 2017 and we’re starting to see a huge change in the voices that come out and support

 

But we still need more.


Every so often,  I still come into contact with different men and boys (…and even some women) who may scoff at the numbers or often try to refute it ("No, 1 in 5 Women Have Not Been Raped;"   “Feminist Myths Need to Go Away;”   “1 in 5 is No Where Close”). They have their reasoning and arguments but a wise woman once asked me, “do the numbers TRULY matter?” I thought about this for a good while. What if we made those numbers personable? Would they then matter more? What if bringing awareness helped just one…JUST ONE person…would it matter? We’ve become a divided culture…that’s for another time…but couldn’t we just agree that it does happen? Side note: it does. We can disagree all day about what the numbers are, heck even in this field I’ve heard different numbers myself…anywhere from 1-in-3  to 1-in-6.

 

But does the frequency really matter? We know it happens…

 

Even if it was just one person that was being hurt, shouldn’t we still want to help them?

 

I think so…I think that’s where we can begin to unite. I’m Matt, just a man trying to help, will you join me?
 

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Mar 24, 2017


Let’s Teach Our Girls to Be Assertive! : By Nikki Head

How many times have you caught yourself saying “I’m sorry…” before telling someone how you feel? I’d venture to guess that if you answered ‘yes,’ you are a woman. I’m guilty of using limiting language myself, except I have finally noticed this is a bad habit and am working on changing the narrative for the young girls I reach.

 

As prevention educators, we go into schools to challenge preexisting ideas about gender that contribute to relationship violence. Whenever our facilitators are in the classroom doing an activity known as “Gender Box,” in which we explore stereotypes related to masculinity and femininity, nearly every group of young people says that men are supposed to be the boss, while women are expected to be less brash and blunt. I’ve witnessed this tremendous pressure for girls to fit into this feminine role. In the classrooms, male students constantly talk over their female peers or answer for them. Girls are often more timid, arguably not by their default personality, but rather the constant bombardment from society, to be timid.  

 

These messages are hurting young girls often searching for their identities. When we tell young girls that they must mask or alter their messages, we are essentially telling them that they don’t matter. Girls who ask for what they need, say how they feel, and raise their voices are ostracized or bullied. This is a genuine fear shared by many girls of being seen as bossy or being labeled aggressive. This can lead to disadvantages later in life relationships and professional arenas. Teen girls’ self-limiting speech can be seen in the way they begin sentences. For example, girls will begin to explain something by saying “I don’t really know but…,”  “no offense but…,” or “I’m sorry but….” These passive speech habits make it seem as though what girls have to say is not as important as what boys have to say.

 

Studies show women on average receive less compensation for work, with a contributing factor being that women are socialized against asking for what they want or deserve. Messages from an early age tell girls not to promote their own interests and to focus instead on the needs of others, but we want to change that! It’s essential as an adult influencer to help girls gain a sense that what they have to say should be heard. Here are some tips to help girls build their confidence and become assertive:

 

  • Build a vocabulary of feeling words: It is necessary to know and express your emotions in order to hold your own in a relationship.
  • Encourage debate: Let her know that she does not always have to be agreeable. She is entitled to having a different opinion, while contributing to discussions and standing up for what she believes in.
  • Role Play: Practice being assertive! Come up with potential conflicts or confrontations and help them to come up with ways of handling it. Try using “I Statements”. 
  • Let her talk: Whether you’re a parent or teacher, let young girls have the freedom and safety to give their opinions. Nurture her confidence by asking her opinions and insight. If you are a teacher, don’t allow the boys in the room to talk over girls or cut them off.
  • Use re-direction strategies: Anytime a young girl uses self-limiting language or speech, encourage her to clarify what she means and to be direct with her thoughts.
  • Point out positive media: Always has a great series of commercials about breaking gender stereotypes. It’s crucial to discuss how the media portrays women and have a conversation about changing norms.
  • Provide leadership opportunities: Let her be in charge of planning and executing events, outings, or group projects.

 

These simple steps can have a tremendous impact on girls growing up to believe they are strong! As adult influencers, we can make these small changes in our interactions with the girls in our home, classrooms, youth centers, and communities. Sometimes assertiveness is tough for girls, especially when they are trying to be people-pleasers…but remind them that by speaking up, they are taking care of themselves!

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