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Bridging The Gap

Every week, 2 women in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner (Office of National Statistics, 2015) – 1 every 3 days. This means over 100 women a year. Let that sink in for a minute.

Domestic violence against women is an increasingly large issue here in the UK. 1 in 4 women will experience some form of it in their lifetimes (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14). Why do we, as a society, let it happen? Understandably, it is a complicated and sometimes controversial issue, but even a little bit of awareness and education can go a long way. And that’s exactly what The Bridge Project is all about.

For the last 2 years, Tender partnered up with Women & Girls Network and Working With Men to create and implement The Bridge Project. The Bridge Project has been using the very unique platform of theatre and arts to introduce the tricky subject of healthy relationships in secondary school settings across the London Boroughs. The outline of the program is as follows: the first half consists of single-gendered sessions (only boys and only girls), followed by mixed-gendered (girls and boys together) sessions for the second half.

After doing some background research, I found that the prevalence of intimate violence in the UK is higher among younger age groups. Women aged 16-19 and 20-24 are at the most risk, compared to women aged 45-54 or 55-59 (Office of National Statistics, 2014). The Bridge Project is aimed at secondary school students, who typically fall in the 12-16 age range. This is the age range directly preceding the first age range at risk of intimate violence (16-19). Therefore, The Bridge Project is meant to be a preventative measure.

Prevention is an incredibly valuable and logical concept. Tender’s aim with The Bridge Project has been to educate secondary students on the signs, risks, outcomes, and resources related to domestic violence. These students will move on to 6th form and above, aware of the existing problems surrounding domestic violence, and will be less likely to engage in associated activities.

While working with The Bridge Project, I’ve picked up on a couple things. Incorporating performance into education is actually very effective. I would have never thought of something like drama to portray such a serious issue. Moreover, the students involving themselves in the drama aspects, to my surprise, act quite maturely. Using drama helps them gain an insight into the thoughts and feelings of both genders, and prompts them to make emotional connections with each other.

The discussions were also very impressive. Especially during the single-gendered sessions. One would expect boys won’t have much to say about a topic like domestic violence, but they actually had some great conversations going. A few of them were completely open to talking about how they felt after hearing the bold statistics. There were different perspectives on certain sexual and violent behaviours, but the boys were all generally encouraging each other to share their views.

The girls were more outspoken and didn’t have a problem expressing their feelings and/or opinions in both the single-gendered and mixed-gendered sessions. During the mixed-gendered sessions, there were opportunities for the girls to ask the boys questions and vice versa. It was wonderful to see distinct points, comments, concerns, and questions being brought up and discussed among both the boys and girls.

One thing I found particularly interesting was during the focus groups with the students after the workshops were finished. The students mentioned that they enjoyed their single-gendered sessions more than the mixed-gendered. But when asked if they thought the mixed-gendered sessions were useful, a majority said yes because it allowed them to see the other gender’s point of view, which was important to them. This means that although talking about domestic violence as a group was a little uncomfortable and intimidating at times, the students wanted and benefited from a well-rounded educational experience.

In addition to observing workshops, I’ve been helping with data entry and analysis. As I’ve been sifting through hundreds of pre and post-workshop surveys, I’ve noticed a mostly positive shift in attitude among students who attended the workshops. Almost all the students have demonstrated an increase in awareness and knowledge on the statistics and prevalence of domestic violence. Many of them also went from victim-blaming to victim-supporting, which is truly amazing to see. It’s obvious that after these students learned about the various reasons why victims often stay in violent relationships, they are much more sympathetic.

I believe it’s crucial and absolutely necessary to continue programs like The Bridge Project in the future. The more we make efforts to open up conversations, the better. Because although domestic violence is a difficult topic to address, it’s critical that society continues to be educated on it. Together, we can bridge the knowledge gaps and bring down the terrifying rates of intimate violence in the UK.

Written By Tender Intern Pallavi Thota

Pallavi is a 21 year old American student currently finishing up her undergraduate degree in Public Health. She is planning to pursue a career in the field of global public health via the nonprofit sector. This summer, she came to London to try her hand at working in nonprofit health and has learned a lot. She hopes to start up and run her own nonprofit organisation one day.

 

Every week, 2 women in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner (Office of National Statistics, 2015) – 1 every 3 days. This means over 100 women a year. Let that sink in for a minute.

Domestic violence against women is an increasingly large issue here in the UK. 1 in 4 women will experience some form of it in their lifetimes (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14). Why do we, as a society, let it happen? Understandably, it is a complicated and sometimes controversial issue, but even a little bit of awareness and education can go a long way. And that’s exactly what The Bridge Project is all about.

For the last 2 years, Tender partnered up with Women & Girls Network and Working With Men to create and implement The Bridge Project. The Bridge Project has been using the very unique platform of theatre and arts to introduce the tricky subject of healthy relationships in secondary school settings across the London Boroughs. The outline of the program is as follows: the first half consists of single-gendered sessions (only boys and only girls), followed by mixed-gendered (girls and boys together) sessions for the second half.

After doing some background research, I found that the prevalence of intimate violence in the UK is higher among younger age groups. Women aged 16-19 and 20-24 are at the most risk, compared to women aged 45-54 or 55-59 (Office of National Statistics, 2014). The Bridge Project is aimed at secondary school students, who typically fall in the 12-16 age range. This is the age range directly preceding the first age range at risk of intimate violence (16-19). Therefore, The Bridge Project is meant to be a preventative measure.

Prevention is an incredibly valuable and logical concept. Tender’s aim with The Bridge Project has been to educate secondary students on the signs, risks, outcomes, and resources related to domestic violence. These students will move on to 6th form and above, aware of the existing problems surrounding domestic violence, and will be less likely to engage in associated activities.

While working with The Bridge Project, I’ve picked up on a couple things. Incorporating performance into education is actually very effective. I would have never thought of something like drama to portray such a serious issue. Moreover, the students involving themselves in the drama aspects, to my surprise, act quite maturely. Using drama helps them gain an insight into the thoughts and feelings of both genders, and prompts them to make emotional connections with each other.

The discussions were also very impressive. Especially during the single-gendered sessions. One would expect boys won’t have much to say about a topic like domestic violence, but they actually had some great conversations going. A few of them were completely open to talking about how they felt after hearing the bold statistics. There were different perspectives on certain sexual and violent behaviours, but the boys were all generally encouraging each other to share their views.

The girls were more outspoken and didn’t have a problem expressing their feelings and/or opinions in both the single-gendered and mixed-gendered sessions. During the mixed-gendered sessions, there were opportunities for the girls to ask the boys questions and vice versa. It was wonderful to see distinct points, comments, concerns, and questions being brought up and discussed among both the boys and girls.

One thing I found particularly interesting was during the focus groups with the students after the workshops were finished. The students mentioned that they enjoyed their single-gendered sessions more than the mixed-gendered. But when asked if they thought the mixed-gendered sessions were useful, a majority said yes because it allowed them to see the other gender’s point of view, which was important to them. This means that although talking about domestic violence as a group was a little uncomfortable and intimidating at times, the students wanted and benefited from a well-rounded educational experience.

In addition to observing workshops, I’ve been helping with data entry and analysis. As I’ve been sifting through hundreds of pre and post-workshop surveys, I’ve noticed a mostly positive shift in attitude among students who attended the workshops. Almost all the students have demonstrated an increase in awareness and knowledge on the statistics and prevalence of domestic violence. Many of them also went from victim-blaming to victim-supporting, which is truly amazing to see. It’s obvious that after these students learned about the various reasons why victims often stay in violent relationships, they are much more sympathetic.

I believe it’s crucial and absolutely necessary to continue programs like The Bridge Project in the future. The more we make efforts to open up conversations, the better. Because although domestic violence is a difficult topic to address, it’s critical that society continues to be educated on it. Together, we can bridge the knowledge gaps and bring down the terrifying rates of intimate violence in the UK.

 

Written By Tender Intern Pallavi Thota

Pallavi is a 21 year old American student currently finishing up her undergraduate degree in Public Health. She is planning to pursue a career in the field of global public health via the nonprofit sector. This summer, she came to London to try her hand at working in nonprofit health and has learned a lot. She hopes to start up and run her own nonprofit organisation one day.

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