From July 31st to August 4th, 13 youth from throughout Westchester County participated in My Sisters’ Place’s Summer Institute. This annual event, also known as MSP’s Activist Day Camp for Teens, brings together high school students for 5 days of learning, fun, and camaraderie.  During the week, our Domestic Violence Education and Prevention (DVEP) team engages the participants in discussions about the dynamics of abuse, the role media plays in shaping societal views of relationship norms, how to have healthy relationships free of abuse, how to help a friend who’s being abused, and the root causes of dating violence – including systems of oppression that perpetuate violence.

For a snapshot into their discussions, here is the list of Do’s and Don’ts created by this years participants to guide conversations with friends experiencing abuse.

How To Help A Friend

DO:

  • Give specific examples of what you notice
  • Ask questions
  • Give options
  • Provide resources
  • Respect their decisions
  • Understand them
  • Believe them
  • Validate feelings
  • Remind them of their worth

DON’T

  • Judge them
  • Give attitude
  • Approach the abuser
  • Force them to do what you think is right
  • Give up on them
  • Name their experience
  • Blame them for being abused if they stay

This year our team intentionally included discussions about ways that the participants can become activists. They discussed the many ways that they can take what they’ve learned into their everyday lives. Participants also brainstormed how they could get their schools, friends, families, and communities involved and aware of these issues and how to use their voice to have an impact.

As one might anticipate, as the week goes on, the discussions go deeper, connections between the students and DVEP staff grow, and amazing energy builds. Our team was very impressed this year with how open-minded and informed the participants were. They were very willing to share their thoughts and experiences while also being open to learning from each other.

100% of participants said that after coming to Summer Institute, they feel more confident that they can have a healthy relationship and understand more about why dating violence happens.

We are so grateful to all of the participants and MSP staff who participated and made this such a successful experience. If you would like to be informed when applications are open for next year’s Summer Institute, send an email to email hidden; JavaScript is required.