Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text "loveis" to 22522.

The Importance of Youth Voices

Amidst po boys and jazz musicians, the Garden District and the French Quarter, a powerful group of people came together with a common goal: to better equip themselves and their communities to end sexual and domestic violence, dating and stalking. In early December 2015, Break the Cycle’s Training and Technical Assistance program, along with other national Technical Assistance providers, led a training institute in New Orleans, Louisiana for federal government grantees on topics surrounding Engaging Men and Boys (EMAB) in programming to end gender-based violence.

As the first Technical Assistance institute that strongly encouraged a youth presence, Break the Cycle was lucky enough to bring our own youth representative, Loveisrespect National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB) member Jimmy James. We were lucky enough to connect with Jimmy about his experience, both as a facilitator and attendee of the institute.

Jimmy is a 20 year-old male who lives in Houston, Texas. He is currently a full-time student at The Texas Southern University and also works as both the manager of a restaurant and as a 911 dispatcher. According to Jimmy, he joined the NYAB because he wanted the learning experience of coming together with other young people from all over the country to learn how they can “prevent and bring awareness” to the issue of teen dating violence in their respective communities.

Although efforts to end gender-based violence tend to surround abuse against women, men also experience abuse and play a major role in the prevention of abuse in their communities.

Break the Cycle: What do you see as the role of young men and boys in the effort to end sexual, domestic and dating violence?

Jimmy James: “I believe that once young men and boys stand up for what's right, this [dating violence] epidemic would so soon come to an end. The role that we play is vital, as a provider for a family we must protect our loved ones. I believe the most important role that young men and boys play is simply to bring awareness and be those violence interrupters.”

With the belief that men and boys can make a big difference in ending violence against women, Jimmy had a great opportunity to both engage with other advocates at the EMAB institute, and provide input as a young person.

Break the Cycle: How was your experience at the EMAB institute - what did you think of it?

Jimmy James: “I thought that the conference was well put together. I really liked that it was a diverse group and while it was aimed at engaging men and boys, we were also given the grand opportunity to share the space with women whom are in the same field.”

The concept of masculinity was discussed heavily at the institute and Jimmy spent time examining his personal experience of masculinity and what is means to him.

Break the Cycle: What did you learn at the EMAB institute?

Jimmy James: “I learned a lot about myself as a "masculine" young man. That it's okay to stand up for what I believe in. It okay for me to cry if I feel sad. It's okay to be down.”

Jimmy also served as a presenter at the institute talking about the experience of young men.

Break the Cycle: What was it like to present at the EMAB institute?

Jimmy James: “The space to present was very cordial and chill. Everyone present had an open mind to what was being said. Participants were respectful of the presenter and asked questions if they were lost at any point during the presentation.”

Since not all organizations have the opportunity to attend events like the EMAB institute, we asked Jimmy what organizations can do to better engage with young people. His answer was simply put, but necessary.

Break the Cycle: What do you think organizations who attended the EMAB institute can do to improve their efforts to engage young men and boys in their programs?

Jimmy James: “The biggest improvement that I can suggest is to reach out to young men and boys to engage them.”

Young people are the future and the changemakers necessary to end violence in our communities. Advocates of all ages must include young people in their advocacy. Without them, what is our advocacy worth?

Break the Cycle: Why should organizations include young people in their programming and staffing when working to end sexual, domestic and dating violence?

Jimmy James: “Organizations should include young people in their efforts to ending this epidemic because they play a vital role in the 21st Century. Social media and technology is in their everyday life. Young  adults could relate better with other young adults and those younger (preferably by me anyways). I've also seen it to be very well effective when practiced.”

Thank you to Jimmy for sharing his experience as well as his voice with Break the Cycle.