Youth, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.

Young people around the world are standing against sexual abuse in many ways. They are joining forces for policy change at state and federal levels; educating their peers and adults; and creating new cultures within families, throughout schools and across communities that do not tolerate abuse, victimization or discrimination against children, youth or adults who are sexually abused.

Sexual abuse is an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. Sexual abuse happens when anyone is forced or tricked into sexual activity by anyone else. Sexual abuse can be physical, visual and verbal. Examples include sexual touching, oral-genital contact, rape, incest, any penetration with objects or body parts, making a child touch someone else’s private parts or play sexual (“pants down”) games, exposing private parts to a child, showing pornography/making child watch sexual acts, taking sexual pictures, watching a child undress or go to the bathroom and obscene/sexual language.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World Focusing on Sexual Abuse

Youth as Advocates — Standing up for what they know is right requires youth stand against what they know it wrong. As advocates, youth are making the issue of sexual abuse obvious, apparent and meaningful to policy-makers, law enforcement, the courts, and others everyday. They are letting their stand inform land-lasting conversations and moving essential ideas into the mainstream.

Youth-led Training — By training their peers, younger people and adults, youth are leading the education revolution focused on sexual abuse. They are helping their siblings, parents, and teachers understand youth voice in this area, and moving the agenda forward.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Forming and sustaining equitable youth/adult partnerships is a vital key for a lot of youth engagement activities focused on ending sexual assault and sexual abuse. Through transparency, mutual respect, trust and constantly meaningful involvement, young people and adults learn to work together to transform the world.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World Focusing on Sexual Abuse

Education — Young people want to learn what it takes to successfully challenge and hold back sexual abuse and sexual assault. Through comprehensive sexual education and learning not to assign males roles to assault girls and women, education can change the world.

Research — Substantive research of all sorts can empower youth to take action to against sexual assault and sexual abuse. Learning how to read research, utilize it most effectively and interpret it for others can be essential.

Motivation — Simply changing youth to make a difference isn’t enough. Instead, we’ve found that young people need four pillars to change the world: Policymaking; Targeted educational activities; Substantial assessment, and; Practical culture transformation activities that honor older knowledge and infusing younger innovation.

 

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Youth Voice Tools

Youth participants in a Freechild program.

The Freechild Project Youth Voice

The Freechild Project defines Youth Voice as the active, distinct, and concentrated ways young people represent themselves throughout society.

The Freechild Project has been promoting Youth Voice in nonprofit organizations, schools, foundations and government agencies since it was founded in 2001.

Working with a variety of partners across the country, Freechild has learned about Youth Voice from the 1000s of young people and adult allies in our workshops and critical conversations.

Use the Table of Contents below to find some of the tools, examples and resources we have developed and collected over the years.

Youth Voice Tools
Table Of Contents

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Youth and Intergenerational Partnerships

Freechild Project youth in São Paulo, Brazil.

There’s a powerful space where young people and adults can form meaningful, deliberate relationships across generations. Opportunities for youth and intergenerational partnerships can happen throughout community settings, for cultural, educational, social, business, religious and other purposes.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World through Intergenerational Partnerships

Youth as Mentors — Intentionally creating transparent and mutually beneficial mentorships between young people and adults can help establish intergenerational partnerships. These mentorships focus on reciprocity and empathy, and engage everyone involved as equitable mentors.

Staff Members — Engaging young people and adults as co-staff in nonprofits, government agencies, schools and other community settings can allow intergenerational partnerships to flourish. Communication, trust, meaningful involvement, and resources can allow staff members to succeed through intergenerational partnerships.

Living History Projects — Young people can be essential partners who collect, edit, compile and share the stories and lessons of elders and seniors throughout our communities. Living history projects can share the tools they need, make connections they benefit from, educate individuals and the community about the project, and engage young people as partners. Intergenerational partnerships are the keys to successful projects.

 

Courage it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. - Winston Churchill

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Intergenerational Partnerships

Inspiration — Given the general absence of authentic intergenerational partnerships throughout our society, young people and adults needs inspiration to get engaged together. These stories and lessons are opportunities to grow motivation, build self-confidence and encourage enthusiasm for intergenerational partnerships.

Internet — The internet can allow young people and adults to form healthy, whole and productive intergenerational partnerships with purpose and potential. Using social media, websites, search engines and Wikipedia can allow intergenerational partnerships to be equitable, meaningful and productive for everyone involved.

Training — Intergenerational partnerships aren’t an inherently obvious thing. Training for young people and adults to learn skills like non-violent communication, conflict resolution and teambuilding can be enhanced with training in adultism and age discrimination.

 

Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet at https://freechild.org/yaptips/
Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet!

 

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The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

Youth and Sex Education

Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.

No person is a blank slate that life just happens at. In relationships, young people learn how to act and what to say from their families, parents, other adults around them, and from other young people. Young people should learn about sexuality from scientifically research sources. It can change the world when children and youth learn and participate in teaching others about emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World through Sex Education

Youth as Trainers — When young people take train-the-trainer courses in sex ed, and then become engaged in training their peers, younger people and adults, they can be powerful agents of social change. In addition to learning facilitation skills, young people in these roles also develop their knowledge of human relations, community building and social interactions that can help them throughout life.

Teach-Ins — Resistant school principals, school boards, community leaders, parents and others can make it hard for young people to learn sex education. By holding teach-ins, youth can teach their peers and younger people about the basics, allowing communities to make powerful decisions that empower everyone, not just adults.

Participatory Action Research — Studying the issues they are directly involved in, youth researchers can examine, research and otherwise explore the topics, issues and actions affecting their peers and communities in ways adults cannot. Participatory Action Research also engages youth in creating and enacting powerful responses to their findings. In the area of sex education, their findings can examine many issues and result in countless actions that can change the world.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Sex Education

Education — In order to learn about sex education, young people need to become educated. Every young person in every community around the entire world should have meaningful, substantive and empowering experiences learning about the issues that will directly affect them for the rest of their lives.

Opportunities — Engaging young people in sex education and in teaching others about sex education requires opportunities to learn and teach. Either youth can create these opportunities for themselves, or youth/adult partnerships can be formed to create opportunities across generations.

Inspiration — Oftentimes, communities wait to teach sex education until they experience catastrophic outcomes, including deaths from HIV/AIDs and mass disease transmissions. Instead of looking to those occurrences for inspiration, young people can learn indirect stories, experience powerful teaching, and engage in meaningful activities that move them to expand their knowledge and skills through sex education.

 

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  • Youth Activist Network (YAN)
  • Sex education” by Planned Parenthood
  • Youth Activism for Sex Education” by Adrian Nava, Scarlett Jimenez for the National Partnership for Women and Families
  • Sex Education Resources for Advocates” by Advocates for Youth
  • YAN 101 Sex Ed Training Modules” by Youth Activist Network
  • Scarleteen – The most youth-accessible comprehensive website out there about sexual information for young people. Providing “sex education for the real world,” including information on birth control, safer sex, STDs, masturbation, anatomy, sexual orientation and identification, and communication between sexual and romantic partners.
  • Sex Etc. A website by teens for teens; this site helps youth become sexually healthy people and avoid pregnancy and disease during their teenage years.

 

 

 

 

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Youth + Social Change through Farming

Gardening, farming and otherwise raising food can be a powerful way for young people and adults to work together. Teaching essential lessons about sustainability, production and hard work, engaging youth as farmers can be an exciting way to change the world.

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens through Farming

Youth-Led Agriculture — Engaging young people in directing and teaching farming can be a dynamic, empowering way to promote healthy communities through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice activities.

Community Gardens — While community gardens engage youth in growing their own food, they can also teach youth how to market food. Growing their own foods and becoming entrepreneurs can foster youth learning about their contributions to local food systems, too.

Out-of-School Time — On the evenings, the weekends and over the summer, young people can grow, manage, and otherwise operate gardens and farms of their own and with adults as allies. Youth leadership can transform communities, ensure healthy foods for rural and urban places, and transform their relationships within themselves and the world around them.

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Farming

Apprenticeships — Traditional agricultural apprenticeships weren’t formal, and didn’t have much room for youth voice. Today, these learning opportunities can be formal or informal, and should be driven by youth/adult partnerships. Both young people and adult farmers can learn from each other, and engaging youth in changing the world through agriculture is one way that can happen.

Education — Farming is woven deeply in human heritage from all cultures around the world. Youth farmers can be essential partners in moving this heritage towards the future, with meaningful educational opportunities and the empowering sharing of knowledge from previous generations.

Stories — Stories of youth as farmers can be vital tools for engaging youth in agriculture. Young people can learn values, history and different perspectives on food and farming, and can see themselves as part of the ongoing arc of human evolution. This identity allows them to see deeply into the past, and understand where they can guide their communities and the world into the future.


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  • Youth-Led Farming Handbook by Felege Hiywot Center
  • GRuB – Garden-Raised Bounty
  • Offers empowerment programs that focus on building youths’ nutrition, self-esteem, community connections, and academic enthusiasm. These programs are in the form of academic and employment opportunities to these youth, primarily between the ages of 13 and 19 in Thurston County, Washington.
  • Durham Inner-city Gardens – A youth-driven urban market farm and landscaping business.  We empower ourselves by learning all that we can about organic gardening, healthy business practices and responsible leadership. We break down racial and cultural barriers through communication and understanding within our diverse crew. We grow produce using organic techniques and sell it at the Durham Farmer’s Market. And we promote and maintain open green spaces within the city.
  • Seattle Youth Garden Works – Empowers underserved youth through garden-based education and employment.  We are a youth market gardening program for homeless and youth-in-need ages 14-22 in the University District and South Park neighborhoods. Our goals are to connect youth to housing, health care, education, jobs and community.
  • The Food Project Youth Program – Agriculture, enterprise and service are combined to create a rigorous, practical and integrated experience. Through all of our youth programs, people of all ages bridge communities through farming and food and discover their interdependence with ach other as well as with those who purchase and receive their produce. Youth and adults in Lincoln, Nebraska and Boston, Massachusetts learn that work on the land can be a powerful equalizer, teacher and catalyst for personal, local and global change.
  • Mo Better Food – This student-led organization works in the West Oakland, California seeks to establish a self-sufficient network between African- American farmers and predominate African- American communities; to preserve and improve Land owned by African-Americans by networking with African- American farmers in the Southern states; and to educate the predominate African- American communities of their history concerning land ownership and farming.
  • Literacy for Environmental Justice – An urban environmental education and youth empowerment organization created specifically to address the unique ecological and social concerns of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco, and the surrounding communities of Mission, Potrero Hill, Visitacion Valley, and Excelsior, California.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Makers and Youth Producers

Freechild Project youth in Seattle

Producing, creating, manufacturing, designing, redesigning, recreating, identifying, specifying, and otherwise making anything is at the heart of the maker movement. Engaging youth as makers can mean empowering them with the resources to build what they want, what communities need, and what the world is calling for.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. — Alan Kay

Ways for Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Youth as Builders — When youth are engaged as builders, they are creating, designing, assembling and manufacturing things the world needs. They may make devices, computer programs, instruments, mechanisms or other technology. These things can change the world when they answer unmet social needs.

Youth Construction — Constructing the physical spaces humans live in in an example of youth as makers. They may design and build parks, buildings, indoor spaces, outdoor places and other areas humans and nature occupy, literally changing the world and compelling people to live better, do better and be better through intention.

Youth Internships — Working with adults as learning interns can allow young people to build their knowledge and skills while contributing to maker works. Whether happening in the textile arts, metalwork, woodwork, or technology, maker internships should be focused on youth/adult partnerships that recognize young people teach and learn while adults learn and teach, and that in maker culture, it’s never an either/or situation.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Technology — Practical training and unique exposures to a range of applications and organizations can allow young people to use technology to in powerful, meaningful and substantive ways. Where 3-D printers can allow young people to design physical objects like prosthetic limbs and housing materials in real time, handheld devices can allow them to create apps and construct physical spaces on their own.

Maker Spaces — Maker spaces are places with people, tools and opportunities for youth to become makers. Through equipment, community, and education, young people can design, prototype and create things they might not be able create otherwise. Providing access is key to maker spaces, and young people’s engagement and empowerment can be a key to making them work for everyone.

Training — Training young people how to make things, whether through manufacturing, creation, or otherwise, can engage youth voice in exciting new ways. Building the skills and knowledge of young people is vital, and can compel young people to get engaged and change the world!

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  • Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
  • YoungMakers – Participants ages 8-18 and of varying backgrounds, interests, and skill levels, work together in small clubs throughout the season to design and make a youth-chosen, open-ended project, culminating in an opportunity to share and exhibit at a showcase event.
  • YouthBuild – In programs across the United States and across the globe, low-income young people learn construction skills to help build affordable housing and other community assets such as community centers and schools.
  • Youth inclusive product development” by Youth Economic Opportunities
  • Youth producers” by Central Washington Animal Agriculture Team
  • Simphony Productions” by Youth Impact HUB Oakland

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Planners

Freechild Project youth in New Hampshire

When planning programs, operations, activities, and other events and activities, youth can benefit nonprofits, schools, their homes, and any other institution throughout society. Engaging youth as planners can provide resources for youth, adults and others throughout the community. Planning is involved in everything we do. Either we plan our lives and our world, or we let someone else plan our lives and our world for us. The more opportunities young people have to see all the different ways planning happens, the more they can create the future they want for themselves and for the world.

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. ― Gloria Steinem

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Planning

Legislative Planning — Before city councils, county committees, state legislatures, provincial parliaments, and federal congresses commence their work on legislation, policies, laws, bills or rules, there are planning processes underway. In this planning, research, decision-making, authorization and other practices happen that can engage as planners youth whose in-depth contributions can alter entire nations.

Students as Curriculum Writers — Working with adult educators as partners, students can research, plan, writer, evaluate, critique, and otherwise plan classroom and / or program curriculum for themselves, their peers, younger students or adults. Their contributions can reflect sincere commitments to learning, teaching and leadership throughout education.

Youth Hiring Staff — Participating in hiring committees can provide young people with powerful experiences in sharing youth voice. The nonprofit and government staff who serve as program leaders, agency staff and other roles affecting young people can learn, grow and transform their practice.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Planning

Education — Learning the knowledge that’s required to be successful in planning can be enhanced with guidance, lessons, reading and other opportunities, either in classes or solo. The important part of education to build planning abilities is action, and reflection before, during and after.

Opportunities — Having viable, practical options to be engaged in planning can be essential to young people learning meaningful skills, especially for community building.

Internet — Finding information to make critical, informed and necessary decisions throughout life and the community requires access, and the Internet provides it.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Recruiters

Youth building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their communities or people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen can happen through youth as recruiters. Engaging youth as recruiters must mean more than simply propping them up for some adult-led, adult-driven activities. Instead, it should be part of a larger process designed to engage youth as partners throughout their communities.

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Recruitment

Youth-Driven Programming — When youth lead entire programs, they’re involved in identifying the issues they care about, planning activities, writing curriculum, facilitating action, evaluating performance, and reflecting on outcomes. Roles for youth as recruiters are part of a the whole program planning process, and provide opportunities for young people to overcome challenges affecting youth programming directly.

Community Organizing — All youth are members of larger communities who should be integrated throughout the lifeblood of the spaces, cultures, and other identities which make up parts of who they are. As recruiters, youth can help organize community members into passionate, concerned collectives focused on empowerment and transformation.

Social Media — Using the powers of social media and the Internet, young people can recruit their friends, families, neighbors and others to take action and make the world a better place.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Recruitment

Internet — Learning how to engage others, young people can be powerful users of the Internet for recruitment of both young people and adults. As a tool, the Internet can be taught, critiqued and built on by children and youth.

Training — The skills to recruit and sustain other peoples’ engagement is not an innate ability that some youth have and others do not. Instead, recruitment can happen on a spectrum with different learners and different participants, including across cultural, social, age, and other differences.

Education — Learning the purpose of activities, the incentives and distractions, the assumptions and other knowledge about recruitment can be essential for youth.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth as Activity Leaders

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Engaging youth as activity leaders in nonprofits, community organizations, and other areas includes young people facilitating, teaching, guiding, directing, and otherwise leading youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.

Youth Can Be the Leaders of Tomorrow - If We Procrastinate.

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens for Youth as Activity Leaders

Youth as Cultural Facilitators — Young people can do more than simply learn about culture. Instead, youth + social change can happen with youth as essential leaders, drivers and motivators of culture, heritage and history. A few activities they can lead include teaching native languages, being hired as historical tour guides, or facilitating workshops on youth culture.

Youth-Led Afterschool Spaces — Everyday, millions of children and youth are challenged to find meaningful, substantive activities in their out-of-school time. Whether through homework assistance, tutoring, community enrichment, or other activities, youth + social change can happen when young people drive and direct their own after school spaces.

Service Learning Programs — Learning through service can build youth + social change in powerful, positive, practical ways. Youth + social change can happen through identifying their genuine interests, building their skills and abilities to affect change, positioning youth as planners and researchers, and supporting them facilitating social change.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein

Tools to Build Youth + Social Change for Youth as Activity Leaders

Training — Supporting youth + social change through deliberate skill-building and knowledge-sharing activities can help increase motivation, determination, impact and sustainability. Afterschool activities need increased capacities among everyone involved – youth too! 

Inspiration — It’s not enough to simply throw youth into afterschool activities and expect they will get engaged. Helping them identify their authentic interests can lead to inspiration, as well as meaningfully connecting with other youth and adult allies within and throughout their lives. Inspiration happens a lot of different ways.

Evaluation — Encouraging, allowing and empowering youth through constant reflection is essential to successful youth + social change. However, engaging young people in significant evaluation activities is key to sustaining social change. Youth can be fully engaged and lead efforts focused on quantitative and qualitative assessments, data aggregation, and critical perspectives.


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