Thursday, February 15, 2018

Edmonton needs more violence prevention programming for boys. This statement has been echoed among violence prevention advocates for at least the last decade. Be Your Own Man is SACE’s solution to this problem.

Be Your Own Man (BYOM) launched in February 2017 at four Edmonton schools. The program was designed to be delivered as one-hour weekly sessions for 16 weeks. This is more difficult in practice, but school staff have worked hard to meet needs of the program as best as possible. It’s been delivered in flex blocks, where students have a number of options to choose from. At one school it was delivered over the lunch break. At another, in health class. No matter the format, we spend the next few months with the Canadian Red Cross’s Healthy Youth Relationships curriculum, where the youth think about and discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships; learn about emotional, physical, and sexual violence; and gain communication and conflict resolution skills they can use to prevent violence. All the while the boys are encouraged to build stronger relationships with each other, practice empathy, and challenge pervasive messages about what it means to be a man.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention searched across the U.S. for violence prevention programs to recommend to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, they could only name two. This wasn’t because the majority of programs aren’t effective, but because they lack rigorous evaluation to determine whether they are or not. We’d all like to assume violence prevention initiatives prevent violence—but what happens when they don’t? BYOM is being evaluated to ensure we’re achieving the goals we set to meet, chief among them changing both long-term attitudes and behaviours toward gendered violence.

To help ensure SACE achieves its goals with BYOM, we’re applying the available research in violence prevention initiatives, especially that conducted by Calgary’s SHIFT: The Project to End Domestic Violence. We’re grateful for the financial support of the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Services, without which BYOM could not exist. We are enthused about the potential positive impacts of this program and will provide updates as we’re able.