Congleton Town Council’s White Ribbon Group ran a workshop with Congleton High School students to help them become Active Bystanders and challenge sexual harassment as part of the White Ribbon Campaign.
Years 12 and 13 took part in the sessions which were presented by White Ribbon Ambassadors Mike Wesley and Jonathan Dakin, supported by Cllr Kay Wesley.
White Ribbon engages men and boys, in particular, to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that lead to men’s violence against women.
The talk included an interactive poll to stimulate discussion about sexism, harassment and abuse, and what can be done about it.
Assistant Leader of Post-16 Paul Franklin introduced the team, saying: “It occurred to me recently that if I want to go out for a run I just go, and don’t think about it. I don’t consider if it is dark outside, or plan my route to avoid being attacked. It is just not the same for women and girls, and that’s not fair. This work is important to show we all have a role to play in building a safer and more equal world.”
The White Ribbon team shared some alarming statistics about the prevalence of gender-based violence, including recent high-profile national incidents but also in the local area. In Congleton, an incident of sexual assault or harassment is reported once a week and of domestic abuse once a day, on average.
Although both men and women can be victims, the students learned that 99.3% of women have been subjected to sexual harassment at some point, and that 95% of serious domestic violence and 94% of murders are committed by men.
The polls conducted at the school reflected similar concerns, with 90% of the girls and 75% of the boys saying they would feel the need to take specific actions to keep themselves safe on a night out in Congleton.
When the team delved deeper, it was discovered that the girls are three or four times more likely to take certain precautions, like covering their drink or avoiding walking home alone, than the boys.
Mr Dakin pointed out that in order to prevent these crimes, just telling women to keep themselves safe is unhelpful. “The only people who can really prevent men’s violence to women, or to anyone, are men. We need to challenge traditional views of masculinity that include sexism and aggression, and create a more positive culture that values respect and equality. This is a task primarily for the boys and men in the room. It’s challenging, but we can do it, and here in Congleton we have seen positive results from the White Ribbon Campaign.”
Mr Wesley ran an interactive workshop in which students were given a scenario showing sexual harassment and asked what they would do to stop it. He presented the different ways a bystander could intervene as ‘The Four Ds’ – Delay, Delegate, Direct and Distract, and used polling to ask which method the young people would choose.
In subsequent polling all the respondents said they would use at least one of the techniques mentioned if they saw harassment taking place.
Many of the young people stayed behind after the session to talk about the issues raised and how they might challenge harassment in their peer group or in public.
Cllr Wesley reflected: “It was great that many students came to talk to us afterwards and helped themselves to leaflets and posters. Even more pleasing was that 93 per cent said they would make their White Ribbon promise, and almost thirty did so there and then. The students then went into their tutor groups to discuss how this work might be taken forward in school, which is really promising and I look forward to hearing the next steps.”
Congleton Town Council is a White Ribbon Accredited organisation whose ambition is to eradicate male violence against women and all gender-based violence in Congleton. The White Ribbon Group consists of Town Councillors, Council Officers, and volunteers from the community who are White Ribbon Ambassadors.
The White Ribbon Promise is “I promise to never use, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.” Individuals can make their promise at any time online at www.whiteribbon.org.uk.
If any organisations, clubs or employers are interested in gaining their own accreditation as White Ribbon organisations, please contact the team via email@example.com and a member of the White Ribbon team will get in touch.