By Alexa Schwartz
The NCJW/LA Teen Advocacy Working Group has created an engaging new program for high school students called The Talk Project. The Talk Project is a peer-to-peer sexual violence awareness program which involves teen peer educators visiting high schools and youth groups in Los Angeles to discuss consent, sex, and sexual violence. We have partnered with The Hunting Ground, a ground-breaking documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, and the program includes clips from the film. As the program assistant for the Legislative and Community Engagement Department, it has been an amazing experience to work with the Teen Advocacy Working Group on The Talk Project and help it to grow and evolve.
Inspired after watching The Hunting Ground film, the teen group worked all summer to create a robust, fresh, and empowering curriculum. Lauren Foley and Brianna Tuomi, who founded the Teen Advocacy Working Group two summers ago, have taken the lead on the project, and they have hosted two focus groups and trained peer educators from across LA. We are all so excited to begin bringing the program to high schools this spring, and we are thrilled that we have been awarded with a ChangeMaker Grant from the Jewish Federation.
What makes the project so unique is that it is led by highly informed teens. High school students may often tune out their parents and teachers who attempt to talk to them about sex, but they trust the information they receive from their friends. In The Talk Project, students get the chance to engage in open and honest discussions with passionate advocates in their own age group.
Participants in the program are asked to define terms like “rape” and “consent” in their own words and give guesses about the rate of sexual violence among different communities in the US, such as the LGBTQ community, before being provided with definitions and statistics from the Working Group’s research. Throughout the program, students watch compelling clips from The Hunting Ground including some survivor stories. They are led in five steps, called Understanding the System, Debunking Myths & Challenging Stereotypes, Practice Consent, De-Stigmatize the Discussion of Sexual Assault, and Know Your Rights.
My favorite part of the program is Step 1: Understanding the System. In this activity, peer educators lead volunteers from the audience in a simulated experience. The volunteer walks to different stations, where one at a time, our peer educators explain different life events the volunteer must encounter: first feeling the pressure to live up to the expectations of the gender they were assigned, then being assaulted by someone known and trusted, not being believed or supported by friends and family, and then being blamed for the violence. The activity is incredibly powerful and impactful.
The issue of sexual violence is as personal as it is political, and I’m so happy to be part of a much-needed program that is making a difference by informing and empowering students.
Do you want to bring The Talk Project to your school or youth group? Are you a high school student who wants to be a peer educator? All genders welcome! Click here for more information: https://www.ncjwla.org/thetalkproject
Brianna and Lauren explain the goals of The Talk Project in under 40 seconds.
Alexa Schwartz is the NCJW/LA Community and Youth Engagement Program Assistant. At NCJW/LA, Alexa works in two departments, Youth Educational Programs and Services and Legislative and Community and Engagement, where she coordinates The Talk Project and Young Professionals Leadership Circle (YPLC).