Embrace the Yes
I recently returned from a holiday gathering with my family. It was wonderful to spend time together. I was also surrounded by my darling nieces and nephews for 5 days. Now, I love those kids. But one thing you need to know about me is that I am a SINK (Single Income No Kids) through and through, and while I love those children as if they were my own, this girl needs her quiet and alone time. So, I found myself saying the word, “No” a lot on this trip. And this will get you off the Favorite Auntie List pretty darn quickly. Mixed in with “No” were phrases like, “Stop touching that,” “Don’t do that,” “Stop hitting,” “No more candy,” and “Stop pounding on the bathroom door, for crying out loud!”
It brought to mind a conference workshop I attended years ago. The discussion was about sexual abuse prevention and all the things we tell youth not to do. Someone in the group mentioned that the youth he worked with knew what NOT to do. That was easy. What they wanted to know was, what did we want them TO DO. In other words, we often find it easy to explain what we are against – we are against sexual violence and we want to see a world free of it. But what is it that we want instead? This is often discussed as a promotion paradigm. The Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance talked about this several years ago in an issue of their Moving Upstream newsletter (Not Perpetrating Is Not Enough: Adding a Promotion Paradigm). This excellent article describes the current landscape of risk reduction and prevention work as mostly void of the promotion element. In other words, we do a good job of addressing the need to change individual attitudes, behaviors, and social norms. We focus on building skills, changing environments, and developing or strengthening policies. But are we focusing any of our efforts on creating THRIVING individuals and communities? A lot of our work around healthy sexuality is moving us in that direction (shameless plug for our 2013 SAAM campaign here). And those engaged in healthy relationship work have likely explored this a bit. But one of the important points that the author of this article makes is there is a whole world out there that those of us working to prevent sexual violence can link to – a place where we can find shared goals with other movements and build partnerships with organizations who share our vision for “strong and thriving” people and communities. Approaches such as positive youth development and the Developmental Assets framework are two such movements discussed in the article. I encourage you to explore this article in full. And if you have already taken the plunge into the promotion pool, let us know about your work by commenting below. We may even feature you in a future blog post!