When it comes to movies, it’s enthralling to watch romances like that between Edward and Bella of Twilight, romances characterized by obsession – and a total lack of boundaries. We root for characters like Sierra Burgess when she kisses her romantic interest without his consent. While these seem like fun fictional fantasy, the reality is not that far off when it comes to teen romance. One in ten teens have been sexually assaulted by a dating partner. Forty-one percent of perpetrators of sexualized violence are under the age of 25.
To protect the young people in our lives, it’s key for them to be able to understand and practice consent and boundaries. These life skills are essential for kids and youth to grow up healthy and happy.
Three local organizations have built teaching, modelling, and practicing these skills into their youth programming.
Youth Friendship Circle
Inclusion Yukon’s Youth Friendship Circle uses conversation, connection with peers, and activities to inform youth on the importance of understanding and practicing consent and boundaries in their daily lives.
“Information is what keeps you safe so you can make an informed decision. I want youth to have the information they need to reroute tricky situations,” says Maddi Scott, the program’s coordinator.
When young people learn to recognize and respect boundaries and to communicate their own boundaries in a healthy way, they are not only better able to protect themselves, but also they are less likely to potentially cause harm. For kids, pushing boundaries in play can be a part of normal everyday life. While this can be relatively harmless among kids, those same behaviours as they get older it “could become something very dangerous. We want to teach them before they are even in a position where they could pressure someone into an unsafe situation.”
Friendship Circle is free for youth ages 12 to 21 and runs every Thursday 6:30pm-8pm until June 17th at Inclusion Yukon’s office. For more information, contact Inclusion Yukon by email or phone.
BYTE’s Healthy Relationships Workshops
Bringing Youth Towards Equality (BYTE), a for-youth-by-youth organization, is leading conversations around healthy relationships and consent across Yukon. In workshops, youth facilitators focus on what healthy relationships look and feel like – acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, healthy boundaries, and the importance of self-love and setting standards for yourself.
“Having awareness of your own personal boundaries and standards sets you up to learn what you’re comfortable with, what you’re not, what you tolerate from other people,” says Abbey Gartner, Program Coordinator at BYTE, “and being able to stand up for yourself if you know something is not right with your partner… without getting too far into it while being able to understand it is not your fault if you are a victim of dating violence.”
Gartner notes that it’s also essential for all young people to be able to easily spot and identify dating violence – whether it’s happening to them or to someone they know. “It’s important for young people to be able to identify what [dating violence] is, reflect on it and notice if it is happening to them or a friend because it’s a lot more prevalent than you think it is.”
BYTE runs workshops in Yukon communities throughout the year.
Their website yukonyouth.com has more information about booking workshops and free workbooks.
Rock the North
Packed into each day of this music camp are opportunities and teachable moments for practicing consent and boundaries.
“We practice consent constantly with the kids,” says founder Lana Welchman. “If they are going to grab a guitar that isn’t theirs, they have to ask for consent.”
Each day, participants form a high five tunnel everyone walks through. Using verbal and non-verbal cues, they communicate whether they want a high five or not. This daily exercise gives the kids a choice in how their body can be touched and it also teaches the important skill of reading body language.
Rock the North aims to create a safe space for participating youth ages 8-18. With the experience of a safe space and their new skills around consent and boundaries, youth are better positioned to identify issues and navigate uncomfortable experiences they may face when they re-enter the real world.
“When [feeling safe] becomes your normal, you are able to identify when things don’t make you feel safe.”
Visit rockthenorth.org for more information and upcoming programs.