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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Are youth-led programs a promising approach in sexual violence prevention?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sexual violence prevention programs led by youth often use a peer education model. Colleges commonly use these models for health education on campus. Additionally, some high school and middle school programs incorporate models in which youth undergo training and receive mentorship from adult allies to provide information and programming to their classmates.

At the national level, we have seen a trend toward youth- and peer-led prevention programming. In a recent assessment conducted by the NSVRC (to be published January 2012), it was found that 42% of innovative sexual violence prevention programs that participated in the study are doing youth leadership and mobilization. Through these efforts, programs work with small groups of youth to build their skills for engaging in anti-violence work in their own schools and communities. These prevention focused programs emphasize support for youth-led projects.

Researchers have acknowledged the value of including youth as full participants in their work to understand, prevent, and overcome violence. Dr. Felton Earls discussed this concept in a webinar presentation, Children as Citizens: Engaging Adolescents in Research on Exposure to Violence, now available as a recording. Children and teens are immersed in youth culture and can provide remarkable insight. Valuing youth as equals who share a right to a world without violence helps to inform our anti-oppression work.

One way to help inform your own prevention work is to explore ways that other organizations have engaged in work with youth. Some of these sexual violence prevention programs that work to support youth mobilization and leadership are discussed below. Note that some of these links direct you to pages on social networking sites. Many of these programs make a concerted effort to meet youth where they are.

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s Youth360 is a youth leadership program that works with selected groups of youth to develop their knowledge and skills about sexual violence. The youth then develop their own projects to prevent sexual violence and foster social change in their own school and communities.

Peer Solutions based in Arizona works to prevent the underlying causes of violence. They address issues related to silence and denial, oppression, and challenging perceptions of violence as normal behavior. As stated on their website: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Through this initiative, the Stand & Serve Program, a peer leadership model, has been up and running since 1997.

In Los Angeles, Peace Over Violence incorporates several youth-based programs. YouthLEAD is a leadership program for select high school youth to promote social activism. The P2P (Peer to Peer) program trains youth to provide emotional support, education, and resources to other youth. Students Together Organizing Peace (S.T.O.P.) involves school-based groups working to prevent violence in the many different parts of their lives: school, home, and communities.

What is your organization doing to work with youth to prevent sexual violence? What ideas do you have to share with others?