YOUth Using Their Voice to End Dating Violence


by Rona Amiri, BWSS YOUth Ending Violence Consultant

So far, 2013 has been an incredible year for violence prevention! We have facilitated workshops to over 1,400 youth throughout the Greater Vancouver area. We have facilitated workshops in Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Richmond, and Surrey. We have reached hundreds of youth from both high schools and community organizations. We have facilitated workshops for Indigenous youth groups and Newcomer/Immigrant youth groups.  This has been possible thanks to some amazing young women and men who volunteer as facilitators and are passionate about ending dating violence!

Early this year we trained a new group of youth facilitators. Our Executive Director, Angela Marie MacDougall, facilitated training with support from youth consultants, Rona Amiri and Tijash Ramirez. During the 5 days of training the new volunteers expanded their knowledge of gender violence and looked specifically at youth dating violence. They also gained presentation, facilitation, and leadership skills.


Youth facilitators during 2013 training


Tijash, Isaac, and Khisrow during training

Youth have responded incredibly intelligently and thoughtfully when discussing gender violence. When presented with the facts they become more engaged and want to learn more about what they can do to make a difference.

Not all youth agree with everything we say during the workshop; however, they are respectful in their inquiries and challenges. It is great when youth ask questions or are critical of the information we provide because at least they are being honest. That honesty opens up the space for youth to really talk about dating violence in ways they never had the opportunity. Our facilitators provide the information, facts, and statistics around dating violence and help create a safe space for youth to discuss the issue.

A common misconception is that youth who are part of alternative school programs are ‘bad’ and don’t care about issues of violence and create a lot of violence. However, through our workshops we have seen youth in alternative programs be just as thoughtful if not more. Many of them understand the cycles of violence because of lived experiences and are just as passionate, if not more, about ending violence. We have had some amazing conversations with youth from alternative programs at North Surrey Secondary and Whyte Cliff Agile learning center in Burnaby.

We have also had the opportunity to facilitate workshops for young women who are part of after school groups or in community youth groups. These young women in the workshops were critical of a culture that continuously puts the responsibility on girls and women to ensure their safety instead of teaching boys and men to be respectful of girls and women. They thanked us for creating a safe space to discuss these issues that they have thought of before but never really spoke about. It is unbelievably humbling to be thanked for facilitating a workshop especially when we feel just as thankful to them for sharing their thoughts and being able to learn from them.

One thing that set apart our workshops is the focus we have on ending the violence. While we do share information about dating violence, our main goal is to support youth in feeling empowered to stand up against sexist and abusive behaviors. We discuss how we can support our peers who may be experiencing dating violence, how we can stop street harassment, and how we can be empowered bystanders to interrupt violence when we see it happening.

Here are a few quotes from youth in workshops as well as from our evaluations:

“The presentation will help reduce/prevent abuse when I am in a relationship to know my rights as a woman”

“I would be able to know what to do if my friends or myself encounter this situation”

“The presentation made me feel that it is my right to stand up for myself if something is wrong in my relationship”

“It gave me a lot of info on how to be a good boyfriend”

“Manhood is not all about being strong and tough”

“What I learned from the presentation is that there is more to abuse than physical violence”

“Presentation was good and provided a lot of examples to help us better understand dating violence”

“Really great presentation, I liked the videos”

“I learned about alcohol and consent”

“I learned how to be an empowered bystander:  thank you!!”

We have seen youth own their role in ending violence because they now have the tools to be empowered to stop and intervene when witnessing abusive or sexist behaviour and they have resources to support their peers who may be in a violent dating relationship.

For more information on YOUth Ending Violence prevention workshops email and/or visit here.

New Pathways for Creative Minds with Team Heartbreak and Battered Women’s Support Services

by Amalia Judith Nickel

We are Team Heartbreak, a women-led production company whose core goal is to combine good work with good art, challenging the status quo of mainstream media. We want to be ourselves to the extreme degrees of our imaginations – if we can dream it, we can do it. We come from all walks of life, and none among us is unaffected by violence from within our families, partners, or communities. We stand strongly behind the work that BWSS does and we feel in our very natures that we are drawn to support these initiatives.

Create Your Own is a youth-led initiative that was started in the hopes of both educating and inspiring the youth in our community. Combining the Battered Women’s Support Services YOUth Dating Violence curriculum with songwriting, recording, branding and videography workshops is a way for us to plant seeds of compassion and empowerment while building skills and developing creative expression. We have been fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Vancouver Foundation, enabling us to take this dream and run with it.

Create Your Own utilizes mentors from within the community and the music industry and builds a foundation of mentorship with school programs. For our first upcoming series at Britannia’s Alternative Education program, Juno award-winning rapper Shad and world-renowned songstress Tonye Aganaba will teach – both through relationship and practical skills -the art of songwriting. DJ K-Rec will help the students record and master the tracks, while East Vancouver entrepreneur and creator of the “Welcome to Eastvan” brand Rob G will be helping with T-shirt design and branding.

Marcel Daly, Amalia Judith Nickel, Zoe Peled, Tiffany Jaeger, Rona Amiri, Rob G.

Rona Amiri from BWSS YOUth Ending Violence prevention program will be delivering the curriculum over 5 sessions in small doses, with youth liaison Tiffany Jaeger and Heartbreak members Amalia Judith, Kassandra Guagliardi, Zoe Peled and Alex Liakakos supporting and facilitating in other capacities. We will also be documenting the process – with the help of the students – via the inspired film-making skills of Marcel Daly. After the sessions, we hope to have several songs recorded, t-shirts designed and printed, a video to share with the world, and to have successfully cultivated an increased knowledge of dating violence and how to prevent it.

As a young team, we are somewhat new to this work but our enthusiasm and passion for it drives us to do it fearlessly and without regret. Our plan is one of fluidity – we are here to learn from the youth, to be inspired by their energy, and to take each individual’s spark of imagination and teach them how to build it into a fire. We want all the lives we touch to take on a sense of confidence, of increased self-awareness and of pride in their ability to create something beautiful – in essence, to create their own. @Teamheartbreakz @shop_wrong @dominentfactor

“Create Your Own” is funded by Vancouver Foundation and My Sister’s Closet, a social enterprise of BWSS.