Anti-Domestic Violence Program Graduates First Class of High School Boys

By: Julia Jacobs, The Daily Northwestern
Published: January 5, 2015

A new anti-domestic violence program in Evanston finished its first session with 38 teenage boys graduating at the end of last month.

The Allied Against Violence Project is a joint program run by YWCA Evanston/North Shore and Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) with participants from Evanston Township High School, director Jacob Hostetter said. The purpose of the program, which meets after school twice a week, is to engage young men in conversation about unhealthy norms that can lead to domestic violence and sexual assault, Hostetter said.

“The goal of this is to create a space for these young men to develop their own definition, their own sense of what healthy masculinity looks like to them,” Hostetter said.

Wendy Dickson, director of domestic violence services for YWCA Evanston/North Shore, said that the project is funded by a three-year grant from the Department of Justice, which the organizations received last year. Of anti-domestic violence programs that YWCA Evanston/North Shore offers, this is the only program that focuses on young men, Dickson said.

“There’s just not a lot of focus on young men and making the changes that need to happen to really see change in domestic violence,” Dickson said.

During the 10-week program, the group discussed issues such as teen dating violence, media stereotypes and conflict resolution, Hostetter said. The next step is for program graduates, who receive a monetary stipend at the end of the first session, to pass on their knowledge to middle school boys through other after-school programs in the area. The group facilitator will also offer 15 graduates internships where they will develop a public awareness campaign to educate the larger community on violence prevention.

“We’re really hoping they’re going to be the leaders of this phase and we’re just going to be there to support, myself and the other facilitators,” Hostetter said.

ETHS sophomore Noah McKay, a program graduate, said one of the most important discussions the group had was about what it means to be a man. Although many students said a man must be physically strong, powerful and unemotional, McKay said that he disagreed.

“A man is gentle, loving, kind, strong mentally,” McKay said. “He shows emotion because not showing emotion can build anger.”

The introduction of this program in Evanston reflects a nation-wide “It’s On Us” campaign started by the White House in September to encourage men in particular to work to prevent sexual assault through bystander intervention.

Dickson said the organizations will review the program within the next year and decide whether they will apply for additional funding from the Department of Justice to extend the program beyond three years.

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