A Culture of Safety

A Culture of Safety: The Development of a Youth-Based Sexual Violence Prevention Program, by Leah Gipson, M.A.A.T., Scheherazade Tillet, M.A.A.T., and Salamishah Tillet, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT: In the United States, the highest prevalence of rape occurs during childhood where 32% of victims are between the ages of 11-17 and 29% are below the age of 11. In an effort to raise awareness and increase prevention of sexual violence among the most vulnerable and affected population- adolescent girls of color living in underserved communities- A Long Walk Home Inc., has developed Girl/Friends Summer Institute, a peer-education, arts education, training and advocacy program. The 3-week, 75-hour sexual health, sexual violence and reproductive justice training intensive for 15 adolescent girls takes place the North Lawndale community of Chicago, Illinois.

Despite the prevalence of sexual violence in the North Lawndale community in general and at NLCP in particular, there is only one rape crisis center in the entire area.  In the effort to improve the quality of life and create means to reduce gender based violence of girls and women from the North Lawndale community in Chicago, the Girl/Friends trains these young women to be sexual health peer educators and sexual violence prevention advocates in their schools and communities.  By integrating  multimedia arts and sexual health education, developing adolescent girls’ self-efficacy and leadership skills, emphasizing the importance of formulating self-care and obtaining medical care, and encouraging the youth to assert greater agency in addressing their sexual and reproductive health concerns.

Girl/Friends’ arts-based reproductive justice framework exposes and addresses the social and economic factors that contribute to the disempowerment of adolescent girls and negatively impact their sexual and reproductive decision making and health outcomes. Based upon the positive findings of the Girl/Friends 2009 pilot program in which 27% of the participants reported an increase in knowledge on recognizing the signs of abuse; a 36% increase in knowledge about sexual violence; a 26% increase in knowledge about gender identity and sexual orientation and a 22% increase in girls who would seek therapy or counseling for sexual violence. Girl/Friends addresses the North Lawndale community’s need for creative and youth-centered models to address sexual violence and reproductive rights.



Learn more about A Long Walk Home and the Girl/Friends Summer Institute at www.alongwalkhome.org