Last week I discussed what I learned in the Jackson Katz workshop and I would like to take more time today to discuss an approach that Dr. Katz developed called The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Mode. This is a gender violence, bullying and school violence prevention approach that encourages young men and women from all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their schools and communities.
I found this program to be engaging and very effective. It has been used in schools with the focus on students with their friends, their peers, their fellow students. The program looks not at the “victim” or the “perpetrator” but at the bystander. What do the people who are witnessing a violent act or situation do? How do they respond? What do you do if you are in the hallway and you see a guy push a girl into the locker—you aren’t close friends with them but you know them? No one in the hallway is doing anything. What do you do? What can you do? What are your choices? So many people think there are only two responses: intervene physically to stop it or do nothing. What if there are other options? Through this program students are able to see that there are different ways to respond. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. They are shown that each individual can learn valuable skills to build their personal resolve and to act when faced with difficult or threatening life situations.
From his website Dr. Katz describes the program this way: The heart of the model is interactive discussion, in single-sex and mixed-gender classes and workshops, using real-life scenarios that speak to the experiences of young men and women in high school, college and other areas of social life. The chief curricular innovation of MVP is a training tool called the Playbook, which consists of a series of realistic scenarios depicting abusive male (and sometimes female) behavior. The Playbook—with separate versions for boys/men and girls/women—transports participants into scenarios as witnesses to actual or potential abuse, then challenges them to consider a number of concrete options for intervention before, during or after an incident.
Many people mistakenly believe that they have only two options in instances of actual or potential violence: intervene physically and possibly expose themselves to personal harm or do nothing. As a result, they often choose to do nothing.
But intervening physically or doing nothing are not the only possible choices. The MVP Model seeks to provide bystanders with numerous options, most of which carry no risk of personal injury. With more options to choose from, people are more likely to respond and not be passive and silent—and hence complicit—in violence or abuse by others. Some suggestions to come out of the group process: Talk to an adult. Check in with someone who is experiencing bullying or violence. Or check in with someone who is doing the bullying and let them know that's not acceptable. Many young men and women, and people in US society in general, have been socialized to be passive bystanders in the face of sexist abuse and violence. This conditioning is reflected in the oft-heard statement that a situation "between a man and a woman" is "none of my business."
I found this program exciting and I would love to see it implanted in the local schools here in Eastern Jackson County. Let’s help young people learn that they can get involved and they can have a role in ending the violence. To learn more about the Bystander Approach visit the website: www.jacksonkatz.com . To learn more about Hope House and the services we offer visit our website: www.hopehouse.net . I encourage you to get involved and to make a difference.