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    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate

Talking to Teens about Dating Violence and Bullying in Pleasanton High Schools

“10/10! Would do it again!”

“It was very helpful, especially since this is becoming more common.”

“We haven’t learned much about this yet, so it was great to learn about it!”

“I liked how the presenters were open and not scared to talk about anything.”

“I really thought this inspired me to take action because I noticed some random person online for being called a “b—–” for so-called bullying that they didn’t even do. I feel like standing up that person [who is being cyberbullied] now, as it wasn’t their fault.”

“I felt that Tri-Valley Haven is there for me.”

These are some of the comments we received from ninth-graders after our Healthy Relationships and Bullying Prevention presentations at Foothill High School and Amador High School in Pleasanton this semester.

During the school year, I visit local middle schools and high schools to talk to teens about healthy relationships, teen dating violence and bullying in an age-appropriate way. At the end of each presentation, I hand out surveys to see how effective our presentations are and get anonymous feedback from the students.

Recently we lost all federal and state funding for our youth education programs due to a cut in California funding. As a result, we’ve had to trim many of our presentations down from 2-day classes to 1-day condensed classes in Livermore and Dublin schools. Fortunately, the Pleasanton Youth Commission has continued to fund our Prevention Education program. Thanks to their generosity, we are able to continue providing 2-day presentations to health classes at Pleasanton schools.

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During our full 2-day presentations, we have the opportunity to do more activities with the students to talk about these topics. One of our most popular activities is called “What Would You Do?” During this activity, we read out different scenarios about dating violence or bullying. Then we ask students move to different corners of the room depending on whether they would do nothing (no intervention), step in on their own (primary intervention) or get help (secondary intervention). After each scenario, students get a chance to share what they might do.

Wow, does this activity get teens talking!

Whether we’re talking about dating violence or bullying, each student brings their own unique perspective into the conversation. Sometimes students disagree with their classmates’ suggestions for intervention; other times the entire class ends up standing in the same corner of the room. Many of the classes I visited at Foothill High and Amador High had a lot to say during this activity.

In one class, I asked students what they might do if they witnessed a guy violently shove a girl to the ground on their way to class. Many of the guys in the class said they would step in and confront the guy. In contrast, several of the girls said they would feel more comfortable getting help from a trusted adult or friend. A few of these girls mentioned that they would be afraid of getting hurt if they tried to confront a male student.

Then I told students to imagine the same scenario with one detail changed: “What would you do if you saw a girl shove a guy to the ground?”

Almost every girl said they would feel comfortable talking to the abusive student (in this scenario, another girl) by themselves. However nearly all of the guys said they would be hesitant to intervene. When I asked why, many of them said they wouldn’t know what to say or do in this situation. One student even admitted, “I’ve never heard of this happening to guys.”

This sparked a discussion between the students about assumptions or expectations we might have about who can or cannot be a victim of violence. Many of the students have been encouraged to take a stand against bullying in the past. But often our presentations are the first time students have had the chance to discuss what intervening might actually entail. As presenters, we encourage students to think of intervening indirectly, such as asking for help from a teacher or friend, as well as being assertive.

One of the handouts students fill out before we start our presentations. (via Instagram)

During the conversation, one of the guys mentioned that he would be worried about embarrassing the victim (another guy) if he told the abusive student to stop. So we discussed other ways he might intervene, such as getting help from a teacher so he didn’t have to directly intervene or checking in with the male student in private after the incident.

One of the girls who felt comfortable intervening even suggested, “You could ask one of us for help.”

Isn’t it amazing how one scenario can prompt so many different opinions? Many of the other classes had similar discussions about this particular scenario. As I tell the students, there is no “right” answer when we do this activity. There are many ways students can safely intervene when they see dating violence or bullying happen at their school.

It’s just a matter of getting students to consider their options.


3a92488 In addition to providing advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Jessie is the newest presenter for our Prevention Education Program at Tri-Valley Haven. Learn more about our teen presentations our Teen page on our website.

Bystander Intervention – She’s Doing It Right (You Go, Shelby!)

I just wanted to cross-post a selection from a blog of one of our great advocate volunteers, Shelby Henry.  She has graciously allowed us to reference her blog from time to time, and a few days ago, I came across this amazing story.  Shelby, you are an amazing woman and thank you for the story.  You illustrate what it means to be an active bystander not only in your advocacy work but even in your day-to-day life. 🙂  (Oh, and the emphasis in the post is mine, not Shelby’s, but I could not resist highlighting it.  Hey, this is a work blog, after all!)

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Shelby Henry is an advocate at Tri-Valley Haven, a passionate blogger, a dolphin rights activist, and an all-around amazing person!

Yesterday I witnessed a man assaulting a woman, in broad daylight and on a busy street. When I drove by I only saw for maybe a second what was going on and I think that my brain tried to convince me it wasn’t what it looked like. They were probably messing around. It’s 11 AM, you would have to be insane to attack a woman in broad daylight on this busy street with all these cars driving by. I kept driving. I made it about two streets further before I finally decided it was worth at least turning around just to ease my mind and confirm that the woman was alright and nothing was going on. The woman was not alright and the man had in fact been attacking her. He was grabbing her by the hair as she tried unsuccessfully to swat him away. I turned my car in his direction and floored it. I screeched to a stop right before ramming into the sidewalk and started revving my engine at him, honking my horn, and screaming that the cops were on their way (he was probably really intimidated until he heard Etta James playing through my open car window…). The woman got away and took off, barefoot and in pajamas. The police arrived within just a couple of minutes and handled the situation.

I was horrified to think that I had almost continued about my day without going back to verify what was going on. If you’ve taken a basic psychology or sociology class you’ve probably heard of a phenomenon called the bystander effect. Basically it is when bystanders witness a crime or emergency and do nothing, either out of fear or because they think someone else will call authorities. I think that five months ago, before my training with the Tri-Valley Haven, I would have kept driving. I would have convinced myself it was nothing and that I was just crazy.

Sometimes I think people worry that they will report something incorrectly or that it won’t be worth the officer’s time to check something out. What we don’t realize is that the police are here to serve us and to protect us; it is their duty and it is what they get up everyday to do. I think that as citizens it should be our own duty to look out for each other and keep our towns as safe as possible. We have a responsibility to help police maintain city safety, as they are unable to be everywhere at all times. If you see something that catches your eye and it doesn’t seem right, call the non-emergency number in your city. Err on the side of caution, because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

“Last Night, It Was Closer to Home…” (How to make a difference.)

This afternoon, when I got to the office (I am attending an in-service later tonight, thus a late start to the day), I had several messages from a co-worker, Samantha.  Samantha is a remarkable person – she is the young, determined, extremely capable and organized, passionate and politically-savvy head of our Homeless Services program.  She manages Sojourner House, our 16-bed homeless family shelter, our Food Pantry, Thrift Store and other Homeless-centered services.  She also happens to be one of my very best resources for “what is going on around the world” in terms of human rights issues of all kinds.

Today, she had left me two items — one of them was extremely personal to her, and she gave permission to share the story.  The other is a wonderful series of posters from Missoula’s “Intervention in Action” project.  More on that in a moment.  What I want to start off with, though, is the story she told — in her own words — of how she had her faith in humanity reaffirmed last night:

Samantha is the director of Tri-Valley Haven's Homeless Services department - a one-woman powerhouse of passionate, intelligent advocacy for those in need in our community.

Samantha is the director of Tri-Valley Haven’s Homeless Services department – a one-woman powerhouse of passionate, intelligent advocacy for those in need in our community.

Sometimes being an advocate against violence can feel like you are banging your head against the wall or screaming as loud as you can at deaf ears. Rape culture and domestic violence are very prevalent in society and, through venues such as media, actually encouraged. It leaves me feeling deflated at times.  But every now and then I am reminded there is hope for this society in ending violence towards women (and all of humanity), and that the work I am doing is not futile.

 Usually I get my faith reaffirmed by an amazing news article about someone who stood up and intervened, preventing a woman from getting assaulted.  However, last night it was closer to home. I was chatting with my partner about his day and he shared with me a situation that happened to his 20-year old male cousin. His cousin lives with a couple and the other night the male party started physically assaulting his female partner. His cousin did not stand by and pretend it wasn’t happening, nor decide it was not his business and let it continue. In fact, he took a stand– intervening, calling the cops, and assisting his female roommate in establishing safety. He made a choice to say this behavior is not acceptable and he would not stand by and let it continue.

 As my partner was sharing this story with me…all I could think about is how proud I am of this 20-year-old male and that somewhere along the way he did get the message that he can stand up against violence as a bystander.

 I can’t wait to see him again and tell him how proud I am of him myself.

You know, that restores my faith in humanity, too.
Now to share her other story — this one is about a really great poster campaign by the “Intervention in Action” project, which is a group of community organizations dedicated to ending sexual violence.  This poster campaign really highlights a couple of excellent things — the ways in which moral, responsible men and women (meaning, most men and women) can take a stand in preventing sexual violence.  So often, violence happens and those who are witnesses to it stand by… oftentimes because they don’t know what to do, or how to help, or become swept up in the group-think that allows terrible situations to escalate unchallenged.  What Samantha’s story above shows was one man who broke out of that paralysis and intervened — a real-life hero.  An everyday hero in a world where such interventions happen every day… but not nearly often enough.

These posters talk about the same kind of situation, and also highlight the stereotypes that culturally give the “it’s ok, go ahead” nod to violence against women… and challenge them in a wonderful, clever way.  Here are a few of them:

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Teens Becoming Active Bystanders and Pledging to Support Healthy Relationships!

Teens from Dublin High School pledge to help end dating violence in their school.

Teens from Dublin High School pledge to help end dating violence in their school.

Look at all that purple!

In the, “There is Hope For The World” department of blog reporting:

Today at Dublin High School, teenagers from Tri-Valley Haven’s Be Strong Group held a Violence Prevention Event in the school’s courtyard. Male and female teens signed hearts pledging to do their part to end teen dating violence. Students also took Healthy Relationship Quizzes, and discussed ways to remain safe in dating relationships.

“Be Strong is a teen violence prevention program aimed at helping female youth define respect, healthy relationships, and support one another as they put these concepts into place,” says Linda Law, Tri-Valley Haven’s Prevention Instructor. “The Be Strong teen leaders ran today’s event and encouraged fellow students to join in!”

Sometimes hearing about healthy relationships from adults when you’re a teen isn’t exactly the most helpful or effective way to get the message.  But when you hear about it from your own friends and classmates and peers, that’s when the magic happens.

A little magic happened today.

Strike! Dance! Rise!

OBR-logo-englishWell, I posted a while back on the movement called One Billion Rising and I posted a link to a wonderful short film promoting the international day of awareness.  And then I managed to NOT keep posting about it (which I wanted to do, because this whole thing is pretty awesome in my opinion) and go on to other topics which are also important.  But I CAN’T STAND IT!  I have to post again!  There’s a couple reasons why I am so excited:

#1 – My organization, Tri-Valley Haven, is hosting a One Billion Rising event in our home town of Livermore, California!  So I’m putting out a link to the event here.  I know not all of you (or even necessarily most of you) who read my blog are my real-life neighbors, but SOME of you might be.  And so, in that off-hand chance… you should totally come to Panama Red Coffee Company on February 14th to celebrate with us!

#2 — Ok, I think we all love inspiring, uplifting and amazing dance music, am I right?  Do we love it more when it’s not only inspiring, uplifting and amazing but… international?  How about inspiring, uplifting, amazing, international and for an INCREDIBLE cause?  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

So… here are links to some beautiful art that people around the world are creating in honor of the One Billion Rising event!

Want to dance?  Check out the One Billion Rising theme song–Break the Chain!  I guarantee it will be stuck in your head, and that’s a good thing!  It’s been in mine all day!

Want to dance… en español?  Si, se puede!

For a bunch of wonderful videos–some from the United States, some from Mexico, India, South Africa and so many other countries, go to the VDay YouTube channel and be inspired!

And when you’re done dancing around your home, your office, or wherever you are when you plunge into this amazing outpouring of art and spirit, consider joining up with a One Billion Rising event in your area.  There are tons out there and you can even do an easy search by city, State, zip or country!v_day-page2437

Because sometimes being a bystander can be challenging, hard or lonely work.  But sometimes, being an active bystander means to sing, to dance, to be visible, to raise your voice… and to be part of something magical!  Strike!  Dance!  Rise!

Awesome People Being Awesome – Thanks, “Bill The Librarian” for this great post!

484991_10151099306816879_963690422_nHey… do you have your OWN blog?  Are you on Facebook?  Twitter?  How about talking about being an active bystander in your own blog?  I just ran across this EXCELLENT post by “Bill Drew The Librarian” who has his blog on WordPress as well!  Here is what Bill has to say and I couldn’t have said it better, myself.  Thank you, Bill, for this excellent post and advice and for being out there, helping to make the world a better place, a blog post at a time! 🙂  As I run across other people speaking up about being an active bystander or offering advice… I will try to post about them as well.  We need to support the folks around us who are raising their voices to help others.

A Free Gift to Share with your Loved Ones

With the holiday season upon us, some of us eat a little more and drink a little more than we normally do. Don’t let drinking lower your inhibitions and ruin your or another’s life. Watch out for others’ out-of-control behaviors, too. Please share this information with your children and loved ones.

Be an Active Bystander!

What?
– Active Bystanders take the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for a sexual assault by a predator
– Active Bystanders also take the initiative to help friends who aren’t thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of crime – Intervention doesn’t mean that you only step in to stop a crime in progress. These steps are “early intervention” BEFORE the crime begins

How? ABCs of Active Bystander Intervention.
– Assess for safety. Ensure that all parties are safe, and assess whether the situation requires calling proper authorities. When deciding to intervene, your personal safety should be the #1 priority. When in doubt, call for help.
– Be with others. If safe to intervene, you’re likely to have a greater influence on the parties involved when you work together with someone or several people. Your safety may increase when you stay with a group of friends who you know well.
– Care for the victim. Ask if the victim of the unwanted sexual advance, attention or behavior is okay? Does he/she need medical care? Does he/she want to talk to a Victim Advocate to see about reporting the matter? Ask if someone he/she trusts can help to get them home safely.

Strategies for Active Bystander Intervention

– Calmly and politely talk directly to the person who is acting inappropriately, or to the potential victim
– Suggest that someone observing the situation might be concerned about the person’s conduct
– Tell them that you are looking out for them. You would not want someone to misinterpret what they said, it could be taken the wrong way
– Ask them if they thought how their words or actions might make the other person feel
– Utilize creative options to distract the people involved in order to de-escalate the situation. This may involve humor or appealing to other interests of the people involved
– Tell them you don’t think the comment of joke is funny – Find his/her friends and implore them to intervene. Remember, there is strength in numbers
– Report what you observed “up the chain” and seek guidance on how to respond

If a problem occurs, call 911 or your local rape and domestic violence agency.

Let this be a happy, healthy holiday season for everyone.

Here’s a link:

http://billdrewlibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-free-gift-to-share-with-your-loved-ones/

 

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