connect / 2014

Conversations for Change: LA Youth Work Towards A Violence Free Future

Conversations for Change: LA Youth Work Towards A Violence Free Future

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Jenesse Center, Inc.

To engage LA youth in open conversation about healthy relationships and dating violence and foster mentor and peer to peer accountability.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

To engage LA youth in open conversation about healthy relationships and dating violence and foster mentor and peer to peer accountability.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Jenesse’s focus on youth is a critical aspect of our prevention strategy to reduce the prevalence of domestic violence in our communities in the near future. The goal of “Youth Conversations” is to educate youth about the warning signs of domestic violence and give youth an opportunity to discuss how domestic violence can be prevented. “Youth Conversations” events will provide an opportunity to discuss domestic violence without the stigma that is usually associated with this issue. Young people will learn about the cycle of violence, where to get help, and what to do if they or their friends are ever involved in unhealthy relationships.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Given our experience with youth intervention through our shelter programs and community-orientated youth prevention programs, Jenesse’s youth-targeted violence prevention model has the potential to change the life trajectory of at-risk youth in Los Angeles County. Funding from MY LA2050 would be used to expand Jenesse’s “Youth Conversations” and Teen Angels programs. “Youth Conversations” provides youth with the opportunity to have frank discussions about relationship violence.

Jenesse plans to implement our project by:

  1. Hold “Youth Conversations” to provide youth the opportunity to have frank discussions about relationship violence.
  2. Increase the awareness and support of Jenesse’s Teen Angeles, who create change within our community by being active role models for the next generation.
  3. Engage men and boys as allies in our prevention strategy and intervention model.
  4. Utilize men and boys to influence other men and boys and encourage them to work as change agents to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
  5. Develop violence prevention workshops and activities designed to address the intersection of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and other youth issues.
  6. Create and implement culturally responsive pathway programs, from crisis to stability for youth who are impacted by violence.
  7. Enhance services and support for youth who are exposed to domestic violence.
  8. Increase the community response for youth exposed to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking etc. and community agencies who work with this population.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

The Secret to Why We Connect. We KNOW that We Know….. (1) Domestic violence is a family issue (2) Children and teens are equal victims of domestic violence (3) Young men have to be part of the conversation (4) Domestic violence is sometimes a family cycle that goes generation to generation; this cycle can be broken with proper education, awareness, counseling and preparation. Los Angeles is a violent city, but the most insidious violence, the one that does the most damage, is the violence that takes place in the home. What leaves the home enters the world, and statistics show time and time again that men and women raised in a home where family violence is the norm often become abusers and violent offenders who not only hurt those they love, but target those in their community for harm as well. Decreasing the amount of people who are victims and perpetrators of domestic violence will lead to a safer Los Angeles. But to get there, we must challenge people to redefine their “normal” when it comes to violence. This includes mental, physical, we must engage them to unlearn what they have learned. Karen Earl, CEO of Jenesse Center says, “Jenesse and our collaborators believe we will change Los Angeles by talking. We will come together and share all of the painful questions around relationship violence, develop agreed upon language and process, decide who else belongs in the tent, engage in friendly, fabulous discussions and share our findings and implementation strategies in a lovely inclusive manner. It is now 2050 and Los Angeles is changed.” Jenesse strongly believes that youth intervention strategy is the key to ending domestic violence. We believe that we can live in LA2050 without domestic violence. If we continue to educate and hold conversations about healthy relationships, dating violence and sexual assault until it is nonexistent. Jenesse’s efforts to connect, educate, address and serve the needs of Los Angeles youth by:

  1. Develop and increase existing community programs focused on youth.
  2. Increase availability information and resources for youth exposed to domestic violence and other youth issues.
  3. Develop culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health, anger management and other support services for various age groups.
  4. Provide age, culturally, and linguistically appropriate residential and nonresidential services to youth exposed to domestic violence.
  5. Increase awareness and funding to support programs.

Whom will your project benefit?

Funds obtained through MY LA 2050 will benefit over 1000 unserved and underserved youth ages (11-18) in Los Angeles County. Thirty-four percent of all domestic violence calls in Los Angeles county are from Jenesse’s Service Area. Jenesse’s qualitative and quantitative in- house data supports the devastating effect of domestic violence among children and youth. Jenesse Center knows that to end domestic violence, we must educate our youth early on to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, so they never end up in a shelter. We also know that we must challenge young people who have already fallen into unhealthy relationship patterns, to redefine their idea of normal, and to give and demand respect.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Jenesse thrives on partnerships. One of our strengths is bringing the power, influence and resources of partners within our appropriate framework to move our mission forward.

  1. ICON MANN- Recently, Jenesse was embraced by ICON MANN, a group of Hollywood actors, high level executives and dignitaries…all men, who shadow, mentor, counsel and recognize the achievement of our boys and youth. The men recently celebrated the youth’s achievements at 2014 Youth Conversations event. They provoked thought and reflection on panel discussions about “what is it to be a man”, “what does a healthy relationship look like?”

When we asked some of the ICON MANN participants the questions (1) Why was it important for you to be there? (2) Why are these youths vital?, Graylind R. Wheery/Director of Finance for Sony stated, “I think it was important for me to be part of the conversation because of one of the key topics…“Manhood”. For youth “Manhood”, in some cases, is defined by images seen through various media outlets or through personal interactions. Unfortunately, as in the case of many of the victims who seek Jenesse services for support, some of the personal interactions are not positive ones and the youth will get a skewed view of Manhood thus increasing the chances of a cycle of violence and abuse. Being there and a part of the discussion provided a platform to help change that view. Simply put, we provided the youth with another perspective…a positive perspective. Not to suggest that some of the youth did not already have positive male role models, but more re-enforcement can’t hurt. These youth are vital because they have a voice and can be advocates in getting the Jenesse message out. They will also be leaders and influencers of tomorrow. By providing them with a broad set of exposures today, we are equipping them to not only survive, but also to thrive in an ever changing and complex world. I only hope my words resonated with them.”

  1. Coordinated Community Response Network- A network of organizations who together will ensure access to community resources and provide a victim-centered response to domestic violence, teen dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and other youth issues. Our Memorandum of Understanding Partners include: Watts Healthcare Corporation, Green Dot Public Schools Animo (Alain) Leroy Locke High School, South Central Training Consortium, and Los Angeles Police Department/Wilshire Area Leadership Academy.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
  • Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)
  • Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)
  • Youth getting sufficient social and emotional support.

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Jenesse’s project will engage youth on every level through education, volunteerism, and social media. By providing youth with the tools they need to break the cycle of abuse, we are putting them on a pathway to healthy relationships, educational success and productive goals. Also, we are training the next generation of leaders who will use all the methods available to them — both online and off — to engage their peers to become involved with this project. The culture of the target group of youth is shifting and will continue to shift from a veil of silence to a bullhorn of communication. It is “cool” for this group to: talk about, hold each other accountable, know early on the signs, understand options of what to do and where to go at an early age for help, readily discuss and engage themselves in scenarios when they see their peers in trouble instead of “turning a blind eye”.

In addition, by engaging young boys and men we are redefining ideas of masculinity in ways that empower them to be their best selves.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Jenesse Center uses a myriad of evaluation tools to measure its success and to address the vision of the project. With the diverse funding and array of programs and services that our organization provides we are able to adapt to fit the ever changing needs of the families we serve. Jenesse Center plans to measure the success of the “Youth Conversations” through a participatory evaluation process of: 1. developing a new generation of leaders, 2.sharing knowledge and skills, 3. community involvement, 4. experimentation, and 5.engage volunteerism. Ultimately, shifting Los Angeles towards the reality of a City and world without violence.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

One of the staples of our Youth Initiative program is BeSO YOU! BeSO You! is one of our signature teen dating violence prevention programs that educates youth on healthy relationships, domestic violence and respect in ways that challenge them to redefine what “normal” is when it comes to relationship violence. The series of workshops is geared towards middle and high school students from all socio and economic backgrounds. Many of the participants of this program view “dramatic relationships” as normal or even “ideal.” Some participants have even stated that if they were not in a “dramatic relationship” they would be “bored” or” wonder if their partner even cared”. The purpose of BeSO You! is to get this population to begin to embrace healthier ideas around violence and respect and teach them how to have healthy relationships early on so that they never find themselves in the cycle of abuse that may lead to them one day needing shelter. Since its inception in 2009, BeSO You! has educated more than 1000 children and youth.

Our Jenesse Junior Angel (JJA) and Jenesse Teen Angels (JTA) programs engage youth ages 10-18 in the greater Los Angeles area in community service projects, social advocacy and peer to peer advocacy. JJA and JTA members often stay with us the entire eight years and beyond.

Jenesse University was created in 2012 as a vehicle for our Jenesse Teen Angels to take the work that they are doing with us on a national scale. The pilot program was at Morehouse University in Atlanta, Ga. Members of Jenesse University are trained as peer to peer leaders who are advocates on how their generation can bring an end to relationship violence. These young adults work with Jenesse staff to create relevant prevention strategies targeted to their peer group. Jenesse University has members at Morehouse, Spelman, UCLA, Brown and George Washington University.

One of the strong points of the program has been the leadership role of our young adult men. Jenesse has created a “culture” of embracing boys and young men in the conversation about healthy relationships and domestic violence. Jenesse has worked with young boys and men to take the stigma out of the subject so that the conversation about healthy relationships, dating violence is organic and natural for them to engage. We have also partnered with groups such as the ICON MANN to ensure that strong, positive male role models are always part of any conversation on relationship violence.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Implementing this project in the next twelve months is achievable because we have already begun to the do the work. The previous “Conversation” events and workshops are the successful templates that we will use to expand what we are already doing. As we come out of the pilot phase of this initiative we have a very good idea of what works, what doesn’t work and what some of the gaps are.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One the main barriers to this work is that domestic violence is not an issue that people really want to talk about, there is a stigma involved and people often shy away from the topic out of fear that they will be typecast as a “victim” or an “abuser.” This has lead to the issue of getting non traditional allies (men, youth, those who do not feel that this is their issue) involved. Another barrier is lack of funding.

As we have stated above, Jenesse’s strategy for ensuring a successful implementation of the program includes expanding our “Conversations” model throughout the greater Los Angeles area and beyond and also include continuing to reach out to our non traditional allies.

Once we successfully overcome the stigma and assumptions associated with this issue we can create a comfort level that will allow people to participate and share their resources more freely. We have experienced significant success so far, but there is more ground to cover.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)