- Discuss the prevalence of Sexual Assault in Rural Areas
- Highlight partnerships between community-based agency and the Prison and Faith-based System
- Model collaboration to access resources
This blog was authored by Jessie Towne-Cardenas (on behalf of CALCASA) Partner, Training and Curriculum Development Lead at Aboreta Group.
Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center (RARCC) has been implementing their RPE program at John W. North High School for years so when the supplemental funds came through last year, they leveraged the opportunity to kick off a “new” more comprehensive program beginning with the new funding cycle. As a consultant working with CALCASA to support RPE program, I was lucky to be able to take the quick drive from San Diego to join Debora, Jorge, and Irene on campus at North for a keynote speaker from the Date Safe Project, resource fair in the quad, and Q&A session for adults.
The day began in the theater with over 200 young people in attendance for an energetic and well-received presentation from Mike Domitrz from the Date Safe Project. The Date Safe Project’s goal is to “help teach safer understandings of relationships and sexual intimacy to all ages; how to insure all intimacy is consensual – while also being passionate and romantic; how sexual assault is defined; and how to support survivors of sexual assault/rape.” As I looked around, I saw the usual sights that I remember from being an educator: kids sneaking texts on their phone, a bit of laughing and looks among friends, but also a lot of head nods and interaction. And though Mike has the opportunity to travel the world with his message about consent and asking first to big audiences, I thought of how lucky young people are to have RPE educators delivering these messages in groups across California. And not only delivering the message but also engaging in a conversation, listening to young people, and supporting them in becoming agents of change.
Time for lunch! It was ASB elections for next year so a great time for RARCC to host a resource fair with other community partners. While students strolled to tables, we also heard the speeches of young leaders at the school. I got to see their team in action answering questions, throwing down challenges about “asking first”, and rallying students to be part of action on campus to promote consent and healthy relationships. Finally, we met up with teachers, parents, and other providers for a question and answer period with Mike. It was an opportunity for them to ask direct questions and get tips on how to navigate conversations about consent, respect and equality in relationships, and hear a shout out from the staff at RARCC.
I even had the opportunity to meet the Vice Principal and hear his words of appreciation for the RARCC team and their work on campus. It’s an exciting time at North High School and RARCC with more saturation of the school campus, extended training for teachers, and examination of school policy. Success all around!
This blog was authored by Rubi Gutierrez Prevention Educator, YWCA- Silicon Valley
I began prevention work at Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Campus as a counseling volunteer, where we helped incarcerated youth finish high school through tutoring and mentoring and find jobs. It was there that I was trained on facilitating a curriculum called Safe Dates—and found my passion for prevention. Since then, I have worked in several different agencies talking about the dangers of teen dating violence and sexual assault.
During my time at the Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno, CA there was a youth leader, Aiden B. Montano, who was quiet in the beginning but had no problem voicing his ideas and concerns. He had been a part of the program for nearly two years and I was the latest hire to the agency. Initially, I found him to be my most intimidating student because of how responsible and vocal he was about his expectations of the program. As time went on, I learned that he was goofy and one of my most reliable youth leaders in our school based program, as well as a community leader in our community Youth Leadership Team. He took a lot of pride in being one of the few male students involved because it was rare to see, but also important in order to build relationships with other groups. As Lead Peer and a member of our community Youth Leadership Team, Aiden was often seen running our youth outreach booths, hosting information tables, attending community events, and coordinating presentations and school wide campaigns. Aiden and I had a run-on joke that although he was too young, one day he would “take Rubi’s job”. When I left to work at the YWCA-Silicon Valley (YWCA-SV), he reminded me that he was still perusing my position as a Youth Education Specialist. It is people like Aiden that inspire me to keep empowering youth.
A lot of students are already familiar with the prevention work we do—and just like Aiden, become invested in our programs. Any push-back or barriers we face is often from the people that aren’t directly involved or familiar with what we do or what prevention work is all about. The concept of preventing sexual assault and teen dating violence on campus excites most staff members; however they become nervous about having a discussion with students about what contributes to sexual violence: their environment, their relationships, and more. At YWCA-SV, our method of addressing those concerns is building relationships with school officials, school social workers, and parents during workshops. Prevention is more than just handing out flyers and doing a series of 1-hour presentations. It’s finding new, innovative ways to engage our community. It’s having conversations about the issues we’re seeing, then empowering them to “be the change”.
Building partnership with school districts is vital. I’ve gained trust with teachers through staff trainings, then offering them the opportunity for workshop facilitation in their classrooms. I really took the time to nurture relationships with teachers by setting up meetings, talking with them one-on-one and going over the curriculum or any concerns they might have. We need time and resources to do this, so they can become familiar with what we do and support us being in their classroom with their students.
I know it’s said a lot in our work, but I sincerely tell students that I would like to work myself out of my job. Whatever that means, we want to do. We get excited when students like Aiden want to take our job because that means more people are with us. AND when we no longer have jobs, that means we’ve done our work and sexual violence no longer exists.
This blog was authored by Nadia Charles, President of Jenesse Center’s Jeneration J
I started volunteering at Jenesse Center six years ago, at the M. Sue Frazier Summer Camp, Jenesse’s signature summer program for the children that reside in their shelter program. I had the fortune of working with children of all ages. I immediately noticed that all of the children were innocent in this process and were just trying to navigate their normal. As I continued to work with the children, I learned that they just wanted to be kids, laughing and having fun. At the same time, I worried about their parents. What was going to happen to them? How long would they stay? Even though some of their children could not effectively communicate their feelings, you could see it in their eyes, and feel it in their hugs and high fives. At this point, I knew that I was going to continue to participate and be there for the children—to provide fun and laughter, hugs and high fives for as long as they needed. This volunteer opportunity showed me that love is not supposed to hurt and break up families.
As the years went by and I grew older, I became more involved in activities at Jenesse Center. I learned about Jeneration J from Dr. Angela Parker, Director of Trainings and Programs, and how prevention work is so important. I attended a youth conversation, which provided a space for peers to learn and discuss how to educate our peers about healthy relationships. I believed that if I could start providing this education now, then maybe when I’m an adult, there won’t be any shelters. So here we are six years later, and I am blessed to be able to use my knowledge and voice to make a difference, educate, encourage healthy relationships and prevent violence in peer relationships.
Jeneration J Goals:
From its inception, Jenesse Center, Inc. understood that in order to make a real impact on domestic violence that we had to reach out to the next generation. “Jeneration J” seeks to produce a generation of morally conscious leaders to advocate social change and create a culture without violence. Dating violence does not discriminate. The goal of the program is to provide both a prevention-base continuum of programmatic activities aimed at ending the cycle of abuse and prevents violence such as bullying, date violence, taunting, inappropriately aggressive behavior, assaults, emotional and verbal abuse. It supports an intervention and advocacy model that educates youth and young adults on healthy relationships and trains them to be the next generation of anti-violence advocates. Jenesse has a vision of a world where our children, teens, and youth can live peacefully without the devastating effects of domestic violence, a global issue that continues to penetrate our communities.
This blog was authored by Sarah Diamond, Lead Prevention & Community Engagement Specialist at the Center for Community Solutions.
During my interview to work at the Center for Community Solutions (CCS), my to-be-supervisor shared that they worked with youth in detention and asked if that was something I’d be interested in doing if I was hired on. At first, it felt somewhat daunting to think that I’d be going into a juvenile hall. I don’t think I held negative views of youth in detention, but I also was unsure of what to expect from them. It ultimately sold me on the position. The first time I was in a detention center, it was to observe my coworker, and I knew from then on that I was invested in making sure these youth had access to violence prevention education. The way my coworker was able to have real conversations with them was inspiring, and it made me realize how truly important it is to meet youth where they are at.
I have several students I can think of, but one in particular stands out. John* was incredibly resistant to this idea of not being tough in the real world. That to be a man meant to be “masculine”, to stand up for yourself, to disrespect people who disrespected you. He came from the hood and was adamant that life on the outs wasn’t like the movies. In his own words, he stressed the importance of survival. I had to pause to gather my thoughts, because until that point I don’t know if I’d thought about how sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia were essentially survival tactics. I didn’t want to praise him for using those things per se, but I wanted to hold space for that fact that living in his hood meant doing things to survive. I think part of working with youth in detention is creating space for them to be honest and to acknowledge that they are at the cross sections of having done harm and having been harmed. So I said to him and the class, “Can you be hard in the streets, but soft with your partner? Not soft because she is some delicate flower, but soft because you can show that you are a caring, loving partner?” They all said, including John, “Hell yeah.”
That conversation shifted my way of thinking and working with this population. Together, we worked on how to show compassion towards our partners and how to still be a man without compromising masculinity. This is an ongoing theme in my classes. I have accepted their need to survive in this world and I hold them accountable when appropriate, but I also find they are more open to these conversations when they see they can take the mask off, so to speak, with their partners and show a different side of themselves. I never know how that really unfolds once they’re out, but I will say that students have told me over the years that my class makes them think—and they have conversations with each other outside of class. I’d like to think it’s planting seeds. Sometimes it’s a small change, other times it’s larger, but I can see that it impacts them in some way.
*Name has been changed.
This blog post is authored by Janae Stewart, Prevention Educator at YWCA Silicon Valley
At a previous non-profit I worked in a case management program that focused on youth ages 18-19. All of the options we had to offer were post-care and intervention focused, meaning it was all after they faced abuse or violence in their relationships. I will always remember them saying that prevention was what they wish they had. They wanted to have conversations before the violence occurred, to be saved from the pain they experienced, to learn how to carry themselves and enter into certain situations and relationships with more understanding. At that point, the preventative aspect of my work became really important to me, and I wanted to move in a direction where I could do more outreach.
A youth I worked with was in an abusive relationship, so he broke up with his girlfriend and became homeless as a result. Unfortunately this was a prevalent issue for many of the youth I worked with. In this case he didn’t know how to separate himself from the relationship without becoming homeless. It was really difficult to find him the help he needed, because the options available didn’t fit the situation he was in. He was either unqualified or had to lose something—like becoming homeless first in order to meet the requisites for housing assistance. I’ve realized how important it is that we have more resources for prevention, to reach out to people, including youth, before they face sexual or domestic violence. On top of that, resources that connect programs with other issues areas, like housing and unemployment, are important if we plan to end sexual violence. My role of coaching and mentoring was often frustrating because youth didn’t have access to resources in the community, nothing was preventative, and the aspects of care always centered post-care services. At YWCA-Silicon Valley, I’ve been able step into an outreach role as a Prevention Educator in school based programs, where I can make a strong impact.
Our prevention program is more than just handing out flyers and doing presentations. We really get involved in the work we do and make change one classroom at a time. I’ve realized any number of classrooms we step into can make a huge difference, but the more we do, the more resources we need. This allows us to grow from one classroom at a time to a whole school district.