One of the key components of the Be More Than a Bystander initiative has BC Lions players going into classrooms around the province to talk to students in grades 8 to 12 about how their individual choices and actions can be part of creating positive social change. The training focuses on helping boys and girls know what to say and do when other boys they know are abusing or disrespecting women or girls.
The initial curriculum for the school program was based on the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Model developed in the United States by renowned educator and gender activist, Jackson Katz, who worked with EVA BC in 2011 and whose work inspired the creation of our Be More Than A Bystander initiative. The MVP Model concept was also used to train coaches of amateur football teams in BC and the BC Lions on how to talk to youth about sexism, violence, respectful relationships and speaking up.
“One way of preventing violence against women is to promote attitudes and behaviors that are incompatible with violence and abuse, and that encourage the formation of healthy, nonviolent relationships. This paradigm shift is important. If attention and resources are primarily focused on the occurrence of undesirable behavior, such as identified acts of violence, then prevention efforts are usually directed toward identification, control and punishment. However, if the goal is the promotion of healthy, nonviolent relationships, then attention and resources are more likely to be directed toward establishing and building trust, respecting others’ thoughts and expressions, and encouraging and supporting growth in relationships.” (Wolfe et al, 2005).
Issues of low self-esteem, bullying, substance abuse, gang involvement, teen violence, and violence against women are inextricably linked. (Wolfe et al, 2006). While no community is immune to risk of anti-social behaviour, we know that poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and domestic or sexual violence in the home constitute particular risk factors for youth
There are clear links between gangs and violence against women. Male gang members often perpetrate physical and sexual violence against their girlfriends or ex-girlfriends (Totten, 2000). Increased gang activity and violence therefore pose increased risks for women and children. In addition, many individuals involved with gangs come from families where gender stereotypes were perpetuated or where there was violence perpetrated upon their mothers (Totten, 2000), creating a cyclical dynamic of cause and effect, duplicated generation after generation.
Research shows that violence against women in their intimate relationships is more likely to occur when families are experiencing financial strain. Low income, unstable employment, and financial stresses are some of the most commonly cited risk factors for violence against women in their intimate relationships, including homicide. (BC Institute Against Family Violence, 2006; Dutton & Kropp, 2000; Light, 2007). Other kinds of violence, including gang violence, also increase during periods of financial stress. Employment problems are also associated with increased risk for criminality and general violence (Andrews & Bonta, 1996, 2003; BC Institute Against Family Violence, 2006; Totten, 2008).
There is a significant intergenerational impact of domestic violence. Almost 40% of women who were victims of domestic assault reported that their children witnessed the violence. Often the violence children witnessed was severe. (Johnson, 2006). An estimated 60% to 80% of children who live in homes where there is domestic violence directly witness the violence (Bala and Edwards, 1999).
Violence is learned behaviour. (Critical Components Project Team, 2008). Boys who are raised in families where their fathers abuse their mothers may be more likely to grow up to be abusers. At the same time, girls who have grown up in families where their mothers have been victims of domestic violence may be more like to grow up to be themselves victims of domestic abuse. Psychological and behavioural impacts on children of witnessing violence against their mother are well documented (Ad Hoc Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group Reviewing Spousal Abuse Policies and Legislation, 2003; Bala & Edwards, 1999; Cunningham & Baker, 2007; Geffner, 2000; Jaffe et al, 2004; Johnson, 2006).