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.