Bullying, teasing and physical violence between children and young people can be reduced by raising awareness of the problems, by training adults on how to recognize, prevent and respond to peer violence, and by adults becoming role models who treat people equally, with care and respect.
These and other ways to stop peer violence, particularly affecting children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds, are outlined in new training modules and awareness raising materials to be showcased at the final “Applying Safe Behaviors” project event in Brussels next month. They were designed to guide parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone responsible for the care, education, support and protection of children.
“Professional workers and care providers may already have some awareness (of peer on peer violence), but in order to respond appropriately and to empower children and young people in safety, they must further their understanding,” says Marcela Baxanean, 28, who grew up in alternative care. Today, she is one of the trainers in the project. At the final event of the “Applying Safe Behaviors” project, on April 24 in Brussels, young people, such as Marcela, will share key messages and present different capacity building and awareness-raising initiatives. In addition, a set of policy recommendations both for national and EU levels will be released.
Peer on peer violence is the most common form of violence children and young people experience.
The Brussels event, organized by SOS Children’s Villages, is the culmination of the project “Applying Safe Behaviors: Preventing and Responding to Peer Violence Amongst Children Without or At Risk of Losing Parental Care.”
The project, co-funded by the Rights, Equality, and Citizenship program of the European Union, was implemented in five countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Romania and Spain. “Applying Safe Behaviors” is among the initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 16.2: a world free from all forms of violence against children.
“The motivation behind this project is the prevention of peer on peer violence and, when such violence does occur, to ensure children and young people receive the support and care they need,” says Dr. Chrissie Gale, Executive Director of Child Consulting Ltd. and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde and one of the project’s principle consultants.
Among the material developed from the project are an e-learning module for adults (and course trailer video), explainer videos on the importance of role models, being respectful and accepting of one another, and speaking to children and young people about violence. Additionally, there is a children’s booklet for ages 11-15, a practice guidance and awareness raising videos for young people of 16 and over.
Voices of young people were vital
Dr. Gale says the participation of young people, like Marcela, was vital to ensure that their voices shaped the content of everything developed and implemented during the two-year project. “Most especially, it was important to learn about their thoughts and ideas on peer on peer violence, why they think it happens, and what would help prevent it,” she says.
Five young people became master trainers to train both care professionals and peer trainers. The 70 young people trained as peer trainers went on to lead workshops for children ages 11 to 15 years old.
By the end of 2022, trainings and workshops were delivered to about 500 professionals and 450 children in schools, community centres, social programs and SOS Children’s Villages programs.
Marcela says that, as part of the training team, she could share the perspective of other care leavers. “Some topics were particularly significant to me, and I had the chance to explain them to stakeholders who could hear them directly from someone who had experienced them first-hand,” she says.
In Brussels, members of the International Young Expert Group, a group of 10 young people with care experience, will release their key messages on ways to prevent peer on peer violence. One message is that the subject should not be taboo, but should be discussed openly.
They write: “By better understanding the causes and consequences of peer violence, children and young people can work side by side with responsible adults, authorities, and governments to reduce the numbers, to increase security, and to ensure that every child is safe.”