Gender Matters - Manual on Gender based Violence Affecting Young People
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Tips from users
Summary of activities

Safety in my life[8]

“It is hard to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head.” Sally Kempton


Level 2

Group size

8 to 20


60 minutes


This activity illustrates gender differences related to the issue of violence, and addresses the lack of availability of appropriate information for young people on the true nature of interpersonal violence such as relationship violence or bullying, etc.


  • To recognise the different levels and areas of concern for safety that men and women, and boys and girls have
  • To discover the gap between the realities of gender-based violence and the information young people receive
  • To identify some ways in which youth work can play a role in filling this gap


  • One flipchart sheet and markers for each of the sub-groups


Set out a circle of chairs in the middle of a large free space for the introduction to the activity

Place flip chart paper and markers in different places in the room or space, close to where the groups will work be working


Explain that this exercise is about bringing together what individuals regularly do in order to be and stay safe. Tell participants that single sex groups will create lists of their own, and then will share them and discuss their findings together.

Form sub-groups. These should be single-sex groups, each of a maximum of four or five people. Tell the groups that they should share and brainstorm on the subject of ‘staying safe’, in other words, participants should think about and share things they actually do to avoid violence and to stay safe from violence. They should also think about the kind of threats to their safety they actually face on a regular basis.

Ask each group to go to the prepared working spaces in the room or close by. Give the groups about 20 minutes for the reflection and to make a list on the flip chart.

Get the groups back together, and ask each to report. Hang all the flipcharts next to each other in a visible place. If there were several sub-groups of the same sex, place those flipcharts next to each other.

Debriefing and evaluation

Ask for a round of first impressions about the exercise and about the results. A good way to kick off this discussion is to check if anyone is surprised by the discussion they had in the group, or by the results of their or other groups’ work.

Typical results that arise and need to be addressed include:

The lists prepared by the women’s group/s are often far more detailed and longer than that of the men’s group/s and cover more types of threat to women’s safety:

  • What do you think about this difference?
  • Where do you think it comes from?
  • Does socialisation play a role?

The lists prepared by both male and female groups often focus heavily on precautions against violence from complete strangers, even though there is evidence that violence is most often perpetrated by people known to victims:

  • Are the lists of threats representative of the actual dangers boys and girls, men and women face in their daily lives? Why? Why not?
  • If not, what dangers are missing from the list?
  • Why do you think they did not appear in the discussion and are therefore missing?
  • Can you identify any of the dangers in your local context? If so, do you think the precautions for staying safe suggested by the groups are relevant or effective?

You can continue the debriefing by initiating a discussion about the information that young people receive about violence:

  • What kind of information do we receive about violence and safety from violence? Where does such information come from? Is it credible? Do young people take it seriously?
  • Why do you think children and young people are warned about certain dangers or forms of violence, but not about others?
  • Whose job is it or should it be to inform young people and children about violence and precautions for staying safe?
  • In what way could the youth sector contribute to providing credible information and advice to young people about violence and staying safe?
  • How could you or your organisation contribute to making a change in this respect?

Tips for facilitators

This exercise requires a certain level of consciousness from the group regarding what violence is, what forms of violence exist and how they are defined. Make sure you read the information about violence in Chapter 2 of this manual in preparation for running the activity, so that you can help participants clarify any confusion that may exist around the different types of violence that can be observed in everyday life. You can also read Compass pp. 376 to 381 for a summary of different ways of understanding violence.

Be aware that if most participants have the attitude that they are safe from violence, an attitude that often results in victim blaming, this exercise can raise ‘prejudiced’ attitudes towards victims of violence. When talking about taking precautions against violence or being active in the defence of one’s own safety, the balance in the discussion can easily tip in the direction of placing blame on the victims for not having done enough for themselves. Make sure that both direct and meta-communication makes clear that perpetrators are always responsible for their own actions. A lack of information about safety or being in a vulnerable position for objective or subjective reasons does not cause violence and people not ensuring their own safety do not decide to become victims. Perpetrators, on the other hand, actively decide to use violence.

Explain that violence is a social phenomenon, as opposed to aggression, which is a biological one. As such, being safe from violence requires learned social skills. Make sure you focus the discussion on the extent to which society, through its different institutions from family to school, prepares young people for the most typical forms of violence committed against them.

Suggestions for follow-up

If anyone is interested in further reading, the recent publication ‘Young People and Violence Prevention – Youth Policy Recommendations’, edited by Gavan Titley and published by the Directorate of Youth and Sport, provides an easy-to-understand guide to the issue of violence in the everyday lives of young people, and some insights into how to combat it. This book is available for downloading on

Organise a discussion activity around the data on crime and violence provided by national statistical offices, for example, the British Crime Survey Data or the U.S. Bureau of Statistics data, on violence and perceptions of safety among young people or among women and men.

Two examples of the kind of data that can be used to initiate a discussion activity are provided below.

Question: “How safe do you feel walking alone in this area after dark?”[9]


% Feeling ‘Very Unsafe’

% Victims of Street Crime









Bureau of Justice Special Report: ‘Intimate Partner Violence, May 2001’ from, accessed on April 24, 2005.

“A survey of adolescent and college students revealed that date rape accounted for 67 percent of sexual assaults. More than half of young women raped (68 percent) knew their rapist either as a boyfriend, friend or casual acquaintance. Six out of ten rapes of young women occur in their own home or a friend or relative’s home, not in a dark alley”.

Run the activity ‘Violence in my life’, p. 248 in Compass, with the same group in order to exemplify experiences of interpersonal violence (in general, not just gender-based).

Ideas for action

Suggest to the group that they research into programmes that exist in the local area which do violence prevention with young people, and that they get in touch to find out more about what they do and how. Discuss with your group how you could collectively contribute to violence prevention efforts.

Suggest to the group that they review school programmes to see the extent to which they address these issues as part of the curriculum. If there is an obvious lack of and need for violence prevention programmes in a given school, suggest that the group considers developing a project in cooperation with a specialised organisation to initiate a violence prevention or human rights education programme with a gender focus in the school.

[8] Adapted from Adams, M., Bell, L.A. and Griffin, P. (Eds.) (1997). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. Routledge, p. 122.

[9] Hough, M. and Mayhew, P. (1983). The British Crime Survey: first report. Home Office research study No. 76. London: HMSO. p. 25. Fears for Personal Safety After Dark and Risks of ‘Street Crime’