By Rona Amiri, BWSS Violence Prevention Coordinator
Girls and boys who witness intimate partner violence are at greater risk for being both a victim and the perpetrator of dating violence. As girls develop emotionally, they are deeply influenced by their relationship experiences. Unhealthy, abusive and violent relationships can cause short term and long term negative effects. Girls who have been in abusive relationships are more likely to do poorly in school, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Survivors also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships.
Violence in relationships has the highest rates for young women between the ages of 15 – 24, making up 43% of all incidents of dating violence in Canada. By talking to both young women and men about healthy relationships and discussing what abusive dating behavior looks like, we can prevent intimate partner violence before it starts. It is crucial to change the dialogue around the role of boys and young men. Violence prevention is not only about telling girls and young women what the red flags of dating violence are, but also telling boys and young men that the behaviour is unacceptable. Young men need to own their role in ending violence and finding healthier ways to express their masculinity. Being a man is more than being violent and feminism is part of the solution for creating space for men to be more dynamic and expressive in ways that aren’t violent.
Currently, dating violence is under-reported and rarely discussed, especially in mainstream schools and media. We know 1 – 2 % of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police. The solution lies in young people educating other young people and modeling equality in their relationships. Our workshops are facilitated by youth and model a healthy and equal relationship between our facilitators of all genders. Ending intimate partner violence means that youth and adults must equally participate in discussion and solutions. We need to talk about equality and demonstrate positive examples of equal relationships, so that young people can see what it looks like in action.
We know that violence is a learned behaviour which means we have a responsibility and ability to stop the cycle of violence against women now. 80% of boys who witness their mothers abuse grow up to be abusive. Too often we avoid these conversations because of discomfort. 92% of youth who experience dating violence in Canada are girls and 4 out of 5 women in surveyed in Canadian Universities said they have experienced violence in their dating relationships. Everyone wants to keep the conversation genderless as if men are not responsible for over 90% of violence women experience. Genderless discussions of dating violence cannot be as effective and/or have the same impact because they completely disregard the reality of what is happening. If we don’t hold boys and men accountable the behaviour will not change!
We have been fortunate to witness the impact of our work, whether it be changing attitudes in classrooms or stories of young women finding support after our presentations. For example, one of the things we discuss in our workshops is misogyny and harassment girls and women experience online. Like all gender based violent crimes, this is under reported. Following one of our workshops young women in the class disclosed to their teacher that they were being harassed online by an anonymous man. The teacher and the students reported the harassment to the police and the police were able to find the perpetrator. The young women said that without the workshop they probably would have never told anyone about the harassment they were experiencing because they didn’t know anything could be done about it or that it was wrong even though they felt it was wrong they didn’t know it was a crime.
The ultimate goal of our prevention workshops is to stop dating violence before it begins. Young people are learning the skills they need to form positive, healthy relationships with others which are important that we reach youth as soon as possible. This is an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of relationship violence that can last into adulthood.
Learn more about the impact of our program in the video below:
Each year we offer our free workshops to over 2,000 youth in the Lower Mainland. To book dating violence prevention workshops, please call us at 778-558-7179 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:
International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada
Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women
Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence
The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes
16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment
Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies
The Power of Support Groups at BWSS
If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?