Empowering young people to help prevent abusive behaviour

Two young people on stage with a course mentor at the MVP graduation event

Hundreds of young people from across Merseyside have completed vital training empowering them to help prevent gender-based violence, bullying and other forms of abuse.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell took to the stage this week to welcome and congratulate 330 pupils from 16 secondary schools at a special graduation ceremony at Prescot’s Shakespeare North Theatre.

The young people were the latest cohort to complete the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) programme, helping them to recognise and challenge the attitudes and language which often underpins violence, particularly racist, misogynist, and homophobic behaviour, by adopting a mentoring approach to discuss issues with younger pupils.

Funded by the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP), the Mentors in Violence Prevention programme is delivered by Merseyside Youth Association and supports a ‘whole school’ approach which encourages young people to intervene to help prevent bullying, harassment, and risky behaviours.

The programme empowers pupils to identify and communicate concerns with both their peers and school staff, promoting leadership skills and motivating them to challenge behaviours in a safe way, whilst encouraging others to do the same.

Three young people at the MVP graduation ceremony

By engaging with pupils through a series of workshops, the scheme provides a platform to discuss a range of situations and behaviours which many young people encounter in schools and communities on a regular basis such as name-calling, sexting, controlling behaviour and harassment, equipping them to become active bystanders with the ability to support and challenge safely.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “It was an absolute honour to attend the graduation event, meet these inspiring young people and see how the Mentors in Violence Prevention scheme is empowering them to help change behaviours, mindsets and attitudes.

“It is hard to talk about some of these difficult issues and challenge people’s beliefs and ideas, that can be even harder if those people are your friends who you see every day.

“Words are powerful and sadly, all too often, they are used as weapons, so these young people should be proud of the work they are doing to help others realise the impact their behaviours can have.

“These are tough topics that many adults struggle to talk about, so hearing how young people are breaking down the barriers around things like mental health, sexual violence and bullying is so encouraging. I’d like to congratulate all the young people who have completed their Mentors in Violence training and thank the schools and their staff for committing to embed change across their entire school.

“MYA and particularly their School Development Officers are producing a compelling programme that is empowering young people to make their schools and communities healthier places to be and that work is absolutely vital in my pledge to build a stronger and safer region for our young people to grow up in.”

Merseyside PCC Emily Spurrell joins Roger Thompson from the Violence Reduction Partnership at the MVP graduation event

Temporary Head of the MVRP, Superintendent Georgie Garvey, said: “If we are going to prevent serious violence in the future, it’s vital we intervene early to tackle and prevent the negative and abusive attitudes that, if left to fester, can often act as a trigger for violence.

“The Mentors in Violence programme funded by the MVRP is such an important tool in achieving this. It gives young people the opportunity to explore healthy and unhealthy relationships at a critical time in their lives and equips them with the skills and confidence to be proactive when they identify behaviour which is unacceptable and abusive.

“I was absolutely amazed by the understanding and confidence shown by our young graduates, and it was inspiring to see how they were using this training to create a lasting legacy in their schools and communities.”

Speaking after the graduation, some of the young people described how big an impact becoming a Mentor in Violence Prevention has had:

''MVP has given me confidence in speaking, inspiration, a new learning experience and learning how to make a difference and become an active bystander’’.

''I've enjoyed teaching children to understand how to respond to things such as racism and bullying if it is happening to them or others around them''.

''Although we are here to teach younger students, we were also able to expand our own knowledge when being mentored and we gained a lot of information which helped us act in useful ways that make society a better place. Such as being an active bystander. We have really enjoyed working together and teaching younger students the importance of MVP'.”

Leigh Horner, Project Co-Ordinator RAISE Team, MYA said :  ''The RAISE Team are delighted to be working with over 35 schools across Merseyside, delivering the Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme.

“The programme aims to challenge attitudes, beliefs and cultural norms that underpin gender-based violence, and by working with and empowering young people to educate others on such important topics, we can see that change is happening in action.

“Research conducted by Liverpool John Moores University has reported increased positive attitudes to intervene as an active bystander, and young people saying decreased acceptability of violence. We look forward to working with our existing and new schools in the new academic year and seeing more of the impact this fantastic programme has to offer”.

Photo Credit - Dave Brownlee Photography