Fourteen teachers and local leaders who work with youth recently received training to help youth challenge sexism and inappropriate sexual and relationship behaviour, thanks to the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS).
Attendees at the secondary-school-based Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, held at Rockwood Lodge, learned the damaging impact of gender stereotyping, which can lead to bullying, violence and other forms of abuse. Co-facilitators Keely Halward, SCCSS’s director of Together Against Violence services, and Wayne Spychka, SCCSS’s Police-Based Victim Services coordinator, helped participants lead hypothetical scenarios of unwanted conduct, from sexual harassment to abusive texting. They discussed safe, empowering ways to confront, interrupt, and prevent gender violence such as challenging a would-be perpetrator or reporting an incident.
“Rather than focus on young men and women as potential perpetrators or victims, we want them to see themselves as empowered bystanders who can confront peers who are acting abusively and support the young women subjected to these actions,” says Halward.
Spychka adds: “The program helps us to broaden our view of relationship violence to include sexist language or controlling behaviour and to really examine our attitudes about what gender violence really means.”
Using a peer leadership model, these adults will train youth MVP mentors in grades 11-12, who will, in turn, facilitate discussions based on gender violence scenarios with grade 8 students. It is hoped that within three years, this model will become an ongoing, sustainable part of regular curriculum, incorporating all grades from 8 to 12.
So far, 34 adult mentors and 40 youth mentors have received MVP training in five main school programs through the Lower Sunshine Coast.
SCCSS is grateful for the support of School District No. 46, the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment and donations by Starbucks and The Bakery for this latest training event. SCCSS would like to thank the MVP project funders BC Ministry of Justice, RCMP Family Violence Initiative Fund, Department of Justice Canada, Sechelt Indian Government District, and 100 Women Who Care (Sunshine Coast chapter).
For those seeking more information or wishing to further support this work through donating, please go to www.sccss.ca.