What can science tell us about adolescent females in the Netherlands who sexually abuse in groups?
Greetings!
It is with a sad heart that I (Joan) made the decision to no longer lead NEARI Press. This has been an amazing 10 years and working with Steve Bengis is something that I will treasure my entire life.  

I am excited by the fact that Alisa Klein will be taking over my position.  We worked together for 5 years at Stop It Now! and then again through ATSA, and co-authored a booklet called A Reasoned Approach.  Alisa is one of the smartest people I know--very creative, and she has been connected to this field for 20+ years.  She has worked with Craig before in her position with ATSA and she also knew Steve Bengis.  

Thank you all on this mailing list for your amazing support for NEARI and NEARI Press.  I KNOW that between Craig and Alisa (and Krysten, our community outreach staff person) the NEARI Press will thrive and grow in the next few years! 

Newsletter Background
I am also excited about the interesting article we chose for this month that explores using bystander intervention programs within juvenile facilities.  The researchers found that bystander programs offer adolescents in juvenile facilities the opportunity to see, understand and respond differently to the violence surrounding them.  What we have not seen in other literature is evidence about how these programs must address the trauma history experienced by most of these youth in order to be effective.

As always, if you have any other questions or suggestions for future newsletter topics, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
Craig Latham and Joan Tabachnick

Engaging Males in Juvenile Facilities in Prevention and Bystander Education

by David S. Prescott and Joan Tabachnick
AUTHORS:   Tara Opsal, Jade Aguilar and Steven Briggs

QUESTION:  Can bystander intervention programs be useful in juvenile facilities with adolescent males?

RESEARCH:   Bystander prevention programs and the growing body of research have typically focused on men and women in college [who may or may not have significant histories of violence].  This sociological case study explored how the violent backgrounds of the adolescent males in a juvenile detention center affect their engagement with a bystander prevention program.

T he authors observe that youth serving time in a juvenile facility are more likely to experience violence in their homes and community.  They also note that youth who experience violence increase their risk of a number of negative health and social consequences.  Finally, little research exists on the implementation of bystander or gender violence prevention programs.  The authors explored the potential as well as some of the problems of implementing this kind of programming as a part of treatment programming.

J uvenile facilities often enact a model of masculinity that reinforces particular forms of aggression and can be reinforced by the institutional context (e.g., staff regularly disparage juveniles and subordinate female employees, and enforce sexist ideals of behavior).  Given that schools can be central to establishing a boy’s gender identity, schools and treatment programs can also offer an opportunity to offer alternatives to the hegemonic masculinity norm.

T he authors implemented a program based upon a popular bystander model (Mentors in Violence Prevention, MVP) that relies on peer education to increase knowledge about gender-based violence and teach skills to prevent and intervene.  The key program elements were to:  
  1. recognize that gendered violence is primarily a crime carried out by men against women,
  2. teach individuals to view themselves as potential disrupters of violence and the norms that support gender violence, and
  3. increase skills that enable participants to pro-socially intervene when they witness attitudes or behaviors supportive of violence.
T he study supported the idea that therapeutic treatment groups may provide an ideal opportunity for incarcerated youth to try alternative modes of both gender expression and response to potentially violent situations.  The study also recognized that during times of “heightened” emotions, where peers or the program challenged their masculinity, participants fell back on traditional (and often violent) responses.  In these situations, non-violent responses were particularly challenging because being violent was a key component to their masculine identity and an unwillingness to be violent increased risk of victimization.  In these cases, over time, the peer-facilitators were able to offer a “staged” approach to training that emphasized violence reduction versus violence prevention. Peer-facilitators were able to offer a range of responses that addressed different degrees of aggressiveness.

I n addition, the authors acknowledged that when integrating bystander programs into a juvenile facility, where the most common pathway for youth is experiencing or witnessing violence in their homes, it is essential that the programs must adjust their focus to address this trauma history.

BOTTOM LINE:  Bystander programs offer adolescents in juvenile facilities the opportunity to see, understand and respond differently to violence surrounding them.  But to be effective, these programs must address the trauma history experienced by most of these youth.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PROFESSIONALS:   Effective treatment should always focus on enhancing and building on strengths and competencies as well as managing risks.  The adolescents are taught to be able to talk about their behaviors and to hold themselves accountable for their choices.  In a group setting, this notion is expanded to hold each other accountable as well.  Bystander intervention programs teach these very same skills and is one way to move closer to this goal. Beyond sending the message, “don’t be violent,” bystander programs challenge young men in treatment to consider what kind of a man they want to become, how they want to treat others and how they want to see others in their spheres of influence interact with each other and with young women. Given the insights of this article about the impact on trauma on the decision-making process of these youth, additional work needs to be focused on building skills to prevent violence when they themselves are angry. This article further highlights the importance of trauma-informed care.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FIELD:   The current conversations about sexual abuse prevention are beginning to focus on preventing the perpetration of sexual violence.  The young men in treatment add an important piece of the prevention puzzle -- both as an opportunity to inform our current bystander prevention programs as well as to engage them as part of the solution.  If survivor stories have been important for us to hear to learn about the impact of sexual abuse, these stories may also help to inform us about what is needed to build prevention programs across the spectrum of society.  Further, we should never forget that many young people in treatment will eventually become parents themselves. Bystander intervention programs can help young people understand the role that they can play in raising their own children in a safe family and community. Further, a clear message of this program is that young people are essential members of their community and play a critical role by standing up to violence.  

ABSTRACT:   Drawing on interviews with and observations of boys enrolled in a bystander violence prevention program at a juvenile detention center, this article provides a sociological case study on how the boys’ biographies and violent lived experiences shaped their engagement with the program. Previous research on bystander prevention programs has typically focused on men enrolled in college who do not have the same kinds of violent histories as the boys in this study do. This article builds upon prior research on prevention programs by demonstrating how at-risk youth participants understand and access the program. We offer suggestions for tailoring bystander prevention programs to more adequately address the specific needs of these populations.

CITATION:   Opsal, T., Aguilar, J., & Briggs, S.  (2016). The promises and pitfalls of engaging male juvenile offenders in gender violence prevention and bystander education.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 1-20.

Featured NEARI Press Resource
Webinar and Free Online Course

An online workshop produced by The New England Adolescent Research Institute Inc. (NEARI) and sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Whether you are new to the field or an experienced professional, this course provides the basics for how to encourage friends and family to deter and possibly prevent sexual violence.

By: Joan Tabachnick
Duration: 1-2 hours; CE Credits: 2


By: Joan Tabachnick
Presenter: Joan Tabachnick, MBA
Date: Dec 16, 2014
Time: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EST
Host: Steve Bengis
Technical Advisor: Greg Day
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For $98 as an individual or $250 as an organization, we will guarantee your seat in the webinar AND you have access to FREE CE credits.  We do all of the work to sign you up each month, and, as a thank you for your essential support, we offer you two free NEARI Press books – Current Perspectives and Current Applications, both edited by David Prescott and Robert Longo.  We think that this is really a win-win situation for all of us. 

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Volume 9, Issue 12: December 2016
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