Youth Videos Push Back Gender Violence

Youth Videos Push Back Gender Violence

by rebecca s. a. connie and Tara Malik

When TOMS Attack is the name of a short video created by Global Girls in Chicago to describe the problem of sexual harassment and assault by mature men who prey on young girls. The males are the “TOMS” of the title, which stands for “Thirsty Old Men” who terrorize girls by following them in cars and on the street, attempting to pick them up. One visual in the film says: “These nasty creeps try to get me in the sheets … In reality they know I’m just a child, but in their sick fantasy, I’m a piece of meat.”

The video was made in conjunction with Chain of Change, a Chicago-based project that works with youth to end gender-based violence through media and activism. Chain of Change, in turn, is the creation of the Chicago nonprofit, Beyondmedia Education, a group that harnesses the media as a social-justice organizing tool for women and youth.

Since its inception in the fall of 2007, Chain of Change has worked with over 20 youth organizations to create their own videos addressing gender-based violence. With pre-production discussions and production guidance, the youth plan and create the videos themselves. Once completed, the videos are posted online to inform and educate others about youth perspectives.

The completed videos touch upon topics of street violence, domestic abuse, online predators, sexual harassment against people with disabilities and more.

In one video, young men and women, interviewed about what they think causes men to act violently against women, describe insecurity, cowardliness and physical advantage. Youth from the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s LGBT community center, joined with the Chain of Change project to look at violence against members of the transgender community.

A video by a youth group, Kids Off the Block, presents an honest discussion about unspoken rules that can affect how young men react when confronted with a domestic violence situation. According to the “rules,” young men should not intervene in a violent situation if it involves family members or if the female is the aggressor. The one “rule” identified that allows a young man to intervene is if the violence occurs in public with individuals they do not know.

Another video created by an all-girls youth group addresses why and how girls bully each other, examining girls as both aggressors and survivors of violence. The film demonstrates examples of girl-on-girl violence and describes methods of mediating conflict.

At a forum about the video in August 2008, one girl shared her experiences with bullying. She said:

They were picking on me because I was in a chair and I was different from them. So from the 3rd grade to the 6th grade, they picked on me, took my book bag, emptied it out, called me names — stuff like “cripple.” And one girl even took it as far as to push my chair over and even took the wheel off. I think I could have prevented it from going any farther if I had told my teachers or even went to the principal. But I was afraid to go because they told me if I did, it would be worse the next time. So I just never told anybody. One day the principal was walking around the school like they always do, and I was getting my books out my locker when this one girl pushed my hand into the locker. I went into the principal’s office and then she asked had that ever happened before, and I had to tell her because she asked. I think if I had just told from the beginning, it could have gotten better instead of worse.

The forum where the girl spoke was part of a Youth Media Summit, a follow-up program in which all of the Chain of Change video groups shared their films with each other and joined in workshops about creative ways to enhance social justice causes through the use of photography, radio, spoken word and zine-making. Next year, the forum will go national, part of an effort to help youth around the country better understand the implications of gender-based violence and assert leadership in their communities.

Decmeber 29, 2009