Helping Girls Live Safer Lives
Girls Incorporated is deeply concerned about the magnitude of violence in girls’ lives. According to a 1997 survey, 30 percent of high school students said that violence and crime were the most-important concerns that school-age children face. Violence against girls is tolerated, especially when committed by people they know. Too often the victims are blamed.
Many girls face violence somewhere in their communities (street violence, no safe place to go, neighborhoods that fear kids rather than protect them); at home (family violence); at school (teasing, bullying, sexual harassment, verbal and physical fights). In a 1997 survey, about half (46 percent) of girls surveyed did not always feel safe in the neighborhood where they lived and one in four girls in grades 9 through 12 (26 percent) has been the victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse or date-forced sex.
Violence in girls’ lives involves a complicated mixture of environmental, social and psychological factors. New risks and pressures arise with each developmental stage. In response to our deep concern about the complicated interplay between violence, age and gender, Girls Incorporated created Project BOLD, a comprehensive, research-based program designed to help girls and young women avoid, address and cope with violence.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF PROJECT BOLD
Girls and young women can learn skills, techniques and attitudes to help them live safer lives and overcome the effects of past abuse.
Teaching violence-prevention strategies and advocating for social change takes time, requires a developmental approach and a long-term commitment.
HOW VIOLENCE AFFECTS GIRLS
Girls who experience violence are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. Girls who report having been physically and/or sexually abused are more likely than girls who have not been abused to have symptoms of high stress, depression and low self-confidence, and are at high risk for substance abuse.
Project BOLD includes three developmentally appropriate programs: Be BOLD (for girls ages 6 to 8) build girls’ skills and personal power for avoiding or dealing with hurtful or dangerous situations and assists them in identifying resources that contribute to their safety; Action For Safety (for girls ages 9 to 11) builds negotiation, assertiveness, and self defense skills; Living Safe & Strong (for girls ages 12 to 14) continues discussion of gender violence issues, reinforces and provides skills for teen girls and introduces them to community experts and resources. Also, the program includes two ancillary components & workshops: Safe in My World (for girls 6-18) This effort engages girls in conducting a needs assessment to determine what violence girls are experiencing in their communities & What a Girl Wants (for girls ages 15 to 18) teens discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships, examine relationship violence, and determine strategies for developing and maintaining safe and healthy relationships.
Independent evaluator Fern Marx, a Senior Research Scientist at the Wellesley College Center for Women and Girls, commented on the effectiveness of Action for Safety, “As an observer and evaluator, I was particularly struck by how important it is to provide girls with concrete examples of how to defend themselves coupled with the ability to evaluate situations in terms of one’s personal safety. The discussions of difficult and sensitive topics that are also a core part of this curriculum make this program particularly effective in ensuring that girls experience what it means to be listened to and taken seriously.”