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Youth Empowering Self & Motivating Every Neighborhood, also known as YES MEN, has been a labor of love and necessity to our communities, as we continue to address domestic violence. This six week program, which engages young men between the ages of 14-18, addresses the reality of Teen Dating Violence in their schools and neighborhoods, and offers them the chance to examine their experience as a young man, how they view girls & women, and how these views can contribute to relationship violence. The sessions have included young men of varying ages, ethnicities, experiences, and backgrounds, as well as perspectives that speak to the multi-layered issues at hand. This has been an exciting venture, with many twists and turns, as
many of the participants have not previously contemplated the topics addressed. The open and honest dialogue, along with thought provoking exercises and scenarios, assist in breaking down the walls of resistance of dealing with such a sensitive issue.
YES MEN has been promoted to the families who reside in Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority (SNRHA) properties. This was not due to a greater level of dating violence in those areas, but to build on our existing working relationship with SNRHA and to mobilize a community to focus on a specific issue. The community responded by providing willing, intelligent and insightful young men to attend the program. What’s surprising about the participants is that, even though they were not well versed on the specifics of Teen Dating Violence, they came with strong opinions that opened the door to sharing and opportunities for education. Given that this was a space for them to be themselves, without being judged or criticized, the young men were able to listen to each other, and even challenge one another when they saw it was necessary. This sharing, listening and challenging helped to form bonds between individuals who came in as strangers.
The intent of YES MEN is not only to provide awareness and education on the issue of Teen Dating Violence, but also to empower the young men to be active in their schools and neighborhoods by challenging the idea that violence is acceptable in relationships. It may take some time for many of them to get to the level of challenging social norms; however I am optimistic that conversations conducted in these sessions will, at some point, cause them to reflect and re-examine the roles they can have in their own communities. I look forward to connecting with more YES MEN in the very near future, with the hopes of seeing the program grow and expand. It’s always a great time to say YES!