February 13, 2018 Breaking Barriers in DV, Domestic Violence and Disabilities 0 Comments

On January 10, 2018, the Barrier Free Living New Visions Blog posted about the launch of “The Uncomfortable Conversation” video series on youtube.

These videos grew out of a TEDx talk given by Sarah Beaulieu, herself a survivor of sexual violence as a college student, and sexual molestation as a child.

Sarah is founder of The Uncomfortable Conversation, Inc., an organization dedicated to normalizing conversations about sexual violence, especially for young men. She also manages the Uncomfortable Conversation channel on YouTube. The Uncomfortable Conversations YouTube channel is dedicated to normalizing conversations about sexual violence, especially among young men, for whom the conversations may be especially uncomfortable, whether they are victims or perpetrators.

In her initial work with organizations supporting survivors of sexual violence, and in hundreds of hours of conversations with men and women, Sarah found that it was an almost universal given that conversations about sexual violence were so uncomfortable that they often didn’t happen at all, no matter how necessary such conversations might be, as both a preventive and a healing tool.

I was asked if I wanted to do a follow-up to the introductory piece on the blog. I accepted for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the almost constant presence in the news of stories of sexual abuse, sexual violence and predation by (mostly) powerful men against vulnerable women.

To my way of thinking, sexual violence and domestic violence are often about the same thing, power versus vulnerability. Somehow the cycle of violence must be broken, and any teaching tool that seeks to do that seems to me to be a very good thing.

In Sarah’s TEDx talk she enumerates five lessons about sexual violence, one of which is to “get uncomfortable.”

She states that: “discomfort means we’re having the right conversation.” The intended audience for the videos is college students, high school students, and community organizations.

The videos themselves are short, some under a minute, and most between one and two minutes. I’ve watched a lot of them.

The first video in the series (#1) is called “How not to Freak out if a Friend is Sexually Assaulted. “ In that one, two friends talk about the cousin of one of them who has been raped. Young man #1 (the cousin) is bent on revenge. Young man #2 urges him to concentrate on and be supportive of the young woman victim, rather than concentrating on giving a beat-down to the perpetrator.

The most recent video I watched is #65, “How to Call Out a Workplace Creeper.”
It shows how laughing off harassment hurts everyone.

While watching the videos, it occurred to me that parents who want to have conversations with their children about sexual violence, exploitation, and violations could use a tool like these videos to help them.

In fact, in her TEDx talk, when advocating asking practical questions, Sarah gave an example question: “How do I raise my kid not to rape?”

I was in touch with Sarah and asked her specifically about whether she sees the videos as something parents can use with their sons and daughters as concerned parents seek to break the cycle of sexual and other domestic violence.

“I absolutely se these videos as a tool for parents to use with their children, and to support parents in getting more comfortable speaking with others (community organizations, teachers, childcare providers),” Sarah says. “ Talking about sexual violence is key to prevention, as silence and discomfort are tools that perpetrators use to get away with abuse and assault. Some parents may first need to get comfortable themselves before engaging in conversations with their children. Others may find the videos a useful tool to break the ice with older children and teens about their perspectives on consent, supporting friends who are survivors, or exploring their role as advocates Future videos will likely explore parent conversations in greater depth, both parent-to-child and parent-to-parent or parent-to-organization.”

With new videos being introduced at the rate of about one a week, there is much for advocates and others to look forward to, in terms of having easy to use user-friendly tools at their disposal to have the uncomfortable conversations needed to break the cycle of sexual exploitation and violence. Interested parties can sign up on the Uncomfortable Conversation website to have new videos delivered to their e-mail inboxes.

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