Congleton Town Council’s White Ribbon Group ran a workshop with Eaton Bank Academy 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 Director of Sixth Form Mr Stephen Jenkins said: “”White Ribbon provided an engaging and interactive session which delivered an important and timely message to our young people in Sixth Form.”
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 94% of the girls and 68% of the boys saying they would feel the need to take specific actions to keep themselves safe on a night out in Congleton.
Live polling showed some differences between boys and girls
Mr Dakin pointed out that in order to prevent these crimes, 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, aggression and exerting power over others, and create a more positive masculinity that values respect and equality. This is a task primarily for the boys and men in the room. We need to step up.”
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 Five Ds’ – Delay, Delegate, Document, Direct and Distract, and used polling to ask which method the young people would choose.
Active Bystander training
After the workshop, Mr Wesley observed: “It is good to see that the vast majority here now feel confident to use one or more of these techniques to challenge harassment in public.”
Years 12 and 13 show support for the White Ribbon Campaign with Mr Dakin (2nd left), Mr and Cllr Wesley (front, standing, in White Ribbon T shirts)
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 94 per cent said they would make their White Ribbon promise, and almost forty did so there and then.”
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.
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.
If any organisations, clubs or employers are interested in gaining their own accreditation as White Ribbon organisations, please contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the White Ribbon team will get in touch.