Written by Claudia Piras
Elena is 16 years old. She is finishing secondary education, and she lives in an environment of domestic violence. In addition to her mother and brother (her father emigrated for work), six more relatives live at home. She has a poor relationship with her aunt and her uncle had beaten her mother. Hence, Elena does not like to be at home, and admits that she goes to parties and drinks alcohol more than once in a week to forget her problems. She had a boyfriend, very jealous and controlling, who would not let her talk to other boys. Despite all this, she says that she has never experienced violence.
Elena’s story is real, but not her name. She is one of the teenagers involved in the program Amor… pero del Bueno, a pilot initiative to prevent dating violence in Mexico, where surveys found that 79% of ninth graders are dating or had been victims of dating violence within the last year. From these young couples:
- 24% had suffered psychological violence
- 17% had suffered physical violence
- 77% had suffered sexual violence
Unfortunately, these percentages are not very different from those of other countries in the region. They are not too far from the conclusions of the overview of violence against women in Latin America, where it is defined as a public health problem and a priority in the Development Agenda post-2015.
Often, experiencing violence in one relationship is the first step in the process of constantly accepting dating violence, which later on is very difficult to revert. Thus, preventing youth from engaging in this kind of relationships is the starting point towards a solution.
The Program Amor… pero del bueno
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The objective of the program Amor… pero del bueno is to prompt the school community to take on a critical position against gender violence. It also promotes individual and institutional actions aimed at coexisting in an inclusive, respectful, fair, equitable, and non-violent environment.
During the comprehensive 16 sessions of the school program, young people face their own conceptions and prejudices about gender roles, share their emotions, fears and expectations about their relationships, discuss about abuse behaviors (such as cellphone control, jealousy, verbal aggression) and how these may lead to more serious situations. They also question sexist messages in the media and get informed about the resources available in their schools and community.
The program showed that a dynamic methodology based on mutual respect and in which students are heard, motivates young people to participate. In fact, the results of the impact evaluation include a significant reduction in the incidence of psychological violence of both the victim and the aggressor, and also a decrease in the acceptance of sexist stereotypes in dating.
People say that one never forgets the first love. Unfortunately, this is even more certain when it involves dating violence, either physical or psychological. It can affect a person and their decisions for the rest of their life. Let’s talk with our sons and daughters about the stereotypes in gender roles, the faces of gender violence… Let’s talk to them about love… but the good love.
*This post was originally published in ¿Y si hablamos de igualdad?