Progress Report on the Implementation of
CAASE’s Prevention Curricula:
Empowering Young Men to End Sexual Exploitation and
Empowering Young Women to End Sexual Exploitation
June not only means warmer weather and sunshine, but it also means that the school year is over. The 2014-15 school year was tremendously successful for the CAASE prevention education team. CAASE’s educators worked with over 2,000 students in 20 different high schools across Chicago. These numbers, however, only tell part of story. Let’s let the students tell the rest of it.
Here’s how students responded to the program this year:
Thank you for your support of our efforts. Students who have completed the Empowering Youth to End Sexual Exploitation programs went on to say that the programs have “opened my eyes and brought more clarity along with awareness to this topic” and have inspired them to “respect everyone regardless of their gender” and to “raise awareness through social media.” Please continue to support CAASE’s prevention team as we continue to empower the young men and women of Chicago to make a difference.
As schools move toward the end of the academic year, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation’s education team has been busy facilitating as many workshops as possible. With spring break approaching and summer following quickly after, educators have been eager to engage their students in conversation about sexual exploitation through partnerships with CAASE.
So far, in 2015 the prevention educators have:
Thank you for your support of our efforts. Students who have completed the Empowering Youth to End Sexual Exploitation programs have described the programs as having “opened my eyes and brought more clarity along with awareness to this topic” and as inspiring them to “respect everyone regardless of their gender” and to “raise awareness through social media.” Please continue to support CAASE’s prevention team as we continue to empower the young men and women of Chicago to make a difference.
It is sometimes hard to quantify the effectiveness of Empowering Young Men, particularly when the participants refuse to fill out the surveys. It should be noted, however, that the refusal to write is often more about low literacy-levels manifesting as defiant behavior than simply defiant behavior. This doesn’t mean, however, that we have no way to gauge success. The opportunity often comes at the end of the final session when I ask the young men what they can do to be a part of the solution to the problem of demand for prostitution. This question is often met with long pauses, even in the highest-performing schools, but recently I worked with a few young men who let me know that they had an answer. Allow me to provide the transcript of the interaction—as best I can remember because I’m not allowed to actually record the sessions. I’ve also changed everyone’s names, except my own.
(A classroom with 12 young men.)
Caleb: So, now that we see what causes this problem, what can we do to help solve it?
Nathaniel: What d’you mean?
Caleb: Well, are there things that all of us could start doing, or stop doing, that would help the situation?
Aaron: (raising his hand, while calling out) Yeah! We could start respecting women.
Caleb: That’s a great idea, Aaron. And what are ways that we could respect women?
Eli: (also raising his hand, while calling out) Stop calling ‘em bitches!
Caleb: Alright! I like that, and thank you for raising your hand. What about if you’re hanging out with your friends and one of them starts calling women bitches?
Aaron: (again raising his hand, and sort of waiting to be called on) Ooh! I got this.
Caleb: Yes Aaron?
Aaron: Man I’d be like (standing up to demonstrate his idea through a dramatization) “Bro, you be tweakin’!”*
Caleb: Excellent! You can hold your buddies accountable by calling them out when they disrespect women.
*to “be tweakin’!” generally (teen slang) means to be engaging in unacceptable or crazy conduct.
Although high school hallways are quiet during the summer, the prevention team at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation has stayed busy. In addition to planning and scheduling with our school partners, the team has greatly expanded the reach of the program. This expansion is made possible by training additional facilitators both in Chicago and around the country.
In order to increase the number of young men being educated without altering the amount of time in a day, we realized that we needed to increase the number of educators. The problem was we didn’t have the budget to hire more staff, and even if we did hire more staff we wouldn’t be reaching beyond the Chicago city limits. Fortunately, an organization that already had a team of educators approached us looking for a curriculum to present to young men in their teens. We worked out a partnership to train their educators to facilitate Empowering Young Men all across their state. Later, an organization from yet another reached out, as did an organization from Chicago. By the end of the summer, we had trained three groups of educators, from four different states, and have two more similar trainings lined up for the fall.
This rapid, and unexpected, expansion will mean at least 60 new EYM facilitators empowering young men in five different states to end sexual exploitation. CAASE empowers roughly 700 young men every year. If you multiply that by the power of partnership, the number grows exponentially.
I was asked to come into a high school in Chicago to work with their 9th grade boys. The school indicated that they were troubled by the behavior exhibited in the halls by some of the boys toward some of the girls, and thought the boys would benefit from going through our program, Empowering Young Men to End Sexual Exploitation. At the start of the first day, I asked the boys to write down words they would use to describe “a prostitute.” The majority of the responses were words like, “slut,” “hoe,” “THOT” (That Hoe Out There), “easy,” “nasty,” “dirty,” and “worthless.” Many of these words were the same words that the administration reported hearing directed at the girls in the school. At the end of the 4-session program, I asked the same question. This time, however, the responses were words like, “abused,” “raped,” “alone,” “desperate,” “depressed,” and “victim.”
As these young men went through our 4-session program, they had an opportunity to examine the constructs of masculinity and think critically about how they influence their own decision making. They also had a chance to consider how their behavior, and the behavior of their peers, can impact their community. One student wrote, “I’ve learned that men treat women like crap, they use them as an object… I know that this puts girls in danger of becoming a prostitute.” He and his classmates began to see that objectifying women and degrading them with words like “slut” can have serious consequences. When asked how girls end up in prostitution, many responded with “they had a traumatized life,” “they had a rough childhood,” or “[society says] they have less power.”
Now, not every girl who is objectified and degraded will end up being commercially sexually exploited, and these young men acknowledged that. But as one student said, “we [never] know her story.” At the end of the final session, I asked the young men if there was anything that they would do differently now, based on what they had learned during the program. The two most common responses were “I will stop saying words like ‘thot’” and “I am going to respect women more.”
School is out for the summer now, but let’s hope they keep their promises.
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