We’re pretty proud of SWOVA’s R+R program and it turns out that we have reason to be. Recently a review of the evaluation results for our program by Buote and Berglund, was published in the international Journal of Education, Citizenship and Social Justice. The article points out how the program is helping promote healthy relationships, including the development of civic mindedness, social consciousness, and related social competence skills among students.
Most interestingly, the article speaks to the program changing the culture of a school. That’s one of the things about the program that we’re most proud of. This is not just one-off learning, but learning that gets at the heart of real change. R+R’s ongoing four-year curriculum builds on the program’s foundational concepts each year, and has more of an impact on school culture than a single presentation or a one-year program.
What’s culture got to do with it? We think it’s *the* thing. While giving youth the skills to develop confidence, communication, and leadership is great, the real goal has to be to create an environment that nurtures youth. According to the McCreary Centre Society, in their Picture of Health study, too many youth in BC do not feel safe at school all the time, in fact less than half. That’s scary stuff.
The article on the evaluation of the R+R program concludes that
“Results of this evaluation reveal a need for schools to continue to place substantial efforts in the area of the promotion of healthy relationships thereby creating a future in which social justice prevails. The level of relational violence and oppression, as witnessed by the youth reports in this evaluation, is concerning. We know from extant research that children and youth who do not feel safe at schools, often experience lower academic achievement and mental health challenges, such as anxiety, self-destructive behaviour, post-traumatic symptoms, aggression, depression and suicide attempts.
The current evaluation of R+R indicates strong results for a program that focuses on key skills and attitudes that lead to development of healthy relationships which in turn promotes a social justice orientation among youth. These positive findings add to the evidence that such skills can be nurtured…and these benefits will be experienced by our society in the future, a future poised for a greater emphasis on social justice.”
The Pass It On Project – Phase II is a mentorship program, which partners young high school women with Grade 8 girls. The aim is to foster connections and friendships, which promote the health and safety of young women and girls. Funding from the Status of Women Canada has enabled SWOVA to support mentorship projects in 5 BC communities – Salt Spring Island, Kamloops, Valemount/McBride, Prince George and Ucluelet. Each community is at a different stage of implementation but what is certain, is that young high school women are excited and empowered to support younger girls, because they know what it feels like to feel uncertain, insecure, eager to please, curious about life and others, and to want to be accepted.
During the training on Salt Spring Island, the high school mentors created their list of what it means to be a mentor:
Be an observer; Offer to help and care; Ask questions; Talk through the issue; Be generous and focused; Be genuine; Share your knowledge and past experiences; Make the other person feel comfortable; Teach/ Be proactive; No cross-talk; Be an ear and listen only; Give time; Give small gestures a hug, a pat on the back, a high 5, congratulations, a smile; Be empathic; Be neutral; No judgment; Maintain a positive/happy demeanour; Go out of your way; Be a good person – a role model; Include your buddy – notice her; Offer encouragement – compliment her; Provide comforting words; Share your feelings.
After the training, all the girls expressed some anxiety about meeting the list of expectations they had set out for themselves. Regardless, they all are eager to meet their buddy and begin their partnerships. On Salt Spring Island, the mentor/buddy partnerships will begin the week of January 17th. The project concludes on May 31st. The learning will last a lifetime.
by Chris Gay
(Pass It On Coordinator)
A sexual assault in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia in September has aroused much concern and discussion. A young woman aged sixteen was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party by a group of young men. It was videotaped and posted on the internet. The result has been devastating for the young woman. As people line up to take sides, some trying to defend what has occurred, Constable Darren Lench, RCMP has stated to the media that “It’s very clear from the evidence collected and her physical injuries that she was not a willing participant and it’s our belief she was drugged,” said Lench. “It’s very clear she was raped by more than one individual.” A charge of sexual assault and of distributing child pornography have been laid to date.
Some of the debate has focused on whether schools need to be more proactive in teaching about proper use of social media, or whether this is the responsibility of parents. I do not believe that it is a question of either/or. Both parents and schools need to be involved in equipping students in the best way possible to deal with our complex technological world.
Going deeper, what would motivate a youth to see this sexual assault as a source of entertainment, videotape a brutal assault and spread it to the public via the internet? Why didn’t the bystanders try to stop the assault or call for help? There is a much bigger issue here than proper use of social media. Empathy and respect for the victim are totally missing. There is no sensitivity to the plight of the young woman and the effects that this assault will have on her life. She became an object for titillation and ridicule. She wasn’t a daughter, a sister, or a friend to show compassion to anyone. She wasn’t a fellow human being who needed help.
We can blame it on television, movies, and video games. We can blame it on lack of appropriate parenting. We can blame it on a school system that has turned a ‘blind eye’ to the impact of social media. After we are finished blaming, what are we going to do to try to stop this madness?
For the past decade SWOVA Community Development and Research Society on Salt Spring Island has been working to develop, test and hone a program for youth called Respectful Relationships (R+R). There are twelve workshops for each student in grades 7, 8, 9, and 10 or 11. This is a 48-workshop series on how to teach youth to have healthy and respectful relationships. This is primary youth violence prevention and this is where we need to begin at build a foundation of wholeness for our children, with community and schools, women and men, youth and adults, working together.
We live in a society that bombards our youth with violence, sometimes with a de-sensitzing and de-humanizing result. Our efforts must be on building a foundation for our youth so that they have the skills, awareness and emotional intelligence to create a peaceful world for the next generation.
SWOVA – Saltspring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse – is moving into the 21st century!
This will be our blog and we’ll also be adding a twitter account to help those who care about eliminating violence. We hope you join us and build our community online.
We plan to write about education, prevention, community action, and support. We hope to share findings with you, success stories from our program participants. We’d like to hear from you as well – what ways are you working in your communities to build leadership skills in youth, communication skills, etc? We intend to share research, opinions, stories and insight. You’ll read a range of authors here on this blog:
- Lynda Laushway – Executive Director of SWOVA – Lynda will be sharing her strategic view on the issues of preventing violence and abuse
- Chris Gay – leads the Pass-it-on Program, a community-based youth mentoring project. Participants of the program might also join the chorus of voices.
- Other authors may also appear as “guests” or eventually regular columnists. Representatives from the Respectful Relationships program (R+R) will participate, too.
It’s an exciting time, honestly a little scary, but we are guided by this timeless quote from Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
In today’s world, this small group of citizens could be spread around the globe, and these social media can help us connect.