In this assembly, Brian Radcliffe invites students to consider the rise in incidents of violence between teenagers, even in apparently safe relationships

Key Stage: this assembly is suitable for use with Key Stages 4 and 5

Engagement

Teenage years are the time when most boys and girls, or men and women as some of you already are, enter into their first relationships.

(Pause)

A good relationship involves mutual respect, support and love. However, unfortunately not all relationships are built on these essential qualities.

(Pause)

Listen for a moment to this.

Reader: The charity NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) estimates that one quarter of girls in a relationship have suffered some form of physical violence. This could range from a slap to a punch to being beaten up. Research undertaken by the charity also indicates that one third of girls in a relationship have been forced to take part in an unwanted sexual act of some form.

Leader: It would be tempting to now take the assembly in the direction of girls being victims and boys the perpetrators of these acts. But before we continue, let’s remind ourselves of two news stories from the past few weeks.

Reader: A 15 year old girl and her 17 year old female friend have been found guilty of causing the death of a 19 year old girl. They provoked and bullied her, eventually encouraging her to jump from a third floor window. The girl died from her injuries (1).

In a separate incident another girl was convicted of pushing a pint glass into the face of a 20 year old customer in a pub. The attack was said to be unprovoked (2).

Reflection

Leader: So it seems the issue in society today is not violence by males against females; it’s actually about violence itself. In fact, the Youth Justice Board has recently published statistics that show a 50% rise in the number of violent crimes committed by young women.

Do you believe that violence is acceptable as a part of normal life? Do you believe that there are circumstances when hitting another person, whether male or female, or using physical force to make them do something they don’t want to, is quite alright?

(Pause)

It seems that we are becoming a more violent society; a society in which a certain level of violence is seen to be acceptable. What is most frightening is that much of this violence is found amongst teenagers and early twenty year olds. The reason this is so frightening is that persistent acceptance of violence at such an early age becomes entrenched. The values learned as a child and a teenager become the values we carry with us through life. If we want to prevent domestic and child abuse later on in life,,we need to address what we think and do here and now. So let’s spend a moment looking at what we can do about changing attitudes to violence amongst ourselves.

What causes violence? We could spend hours during which you relate incidents you’ve witnessed or been a part of. In the end I think we’d come to the conclusion that violence is used either to gain control, to promote a powerful self-image or to get revenge. The bully uses violence to force his or her victim to give them something that they want ,or to comply with some other demand. Rude words provoke a slap, which turns to a punch, which can even, as we just heard, end up with a glass in the face.

Are there other, additional factors that can provoke violence? Many of you will immediately point to the role of alcohol (and, to a lesser extent, drug use) in many fights. It’s clear that a significant number of violent incidents take place in and around pubs and clubs late at night. Peer pressure is a factor also, and this is where otherwise non-violent people can play a significant role. If a fight is brewing there are always those who stand around and urge the two sides into action, sometimes hemming them in by a circle that allows no means of backing out. Finally there is the very personal factor of anger management. Do you have a short fuse? Is it an inbuilt part of your personality, just like the ability to crack a joke or sing in tune?

Response

So what can we do about the increase in violence within society as a whole? If you are a victim then the most important thing for you to do is to tell someone. You don’t need to suffer in silence or to remain a victim. (Remind students of the procedures in your school for reporting instances of bullying and of wider safeguarding policies.) For all of us, a key series of actions is: firstly to recognise the importance of dealing with the problem now before it becomes entrenched in the next generation; secondly taking steps to control the influencing factors of alcohol and anger management; and finally to step back from any encouragement we might be tempted to give to the violence in others.

In the end the really strong person is the one who can control the ‘beast’ in him or herself.

Meanwhile, think about the words of this prayer. Make it your own if you wish.

Dear GodIf violence in society is to diminish then I accept it must begin in meI accept that at times I work on a short fuseI accept that at times I allow my self-control to be impairedMay I be strong insideMay I be controlled insideMay I be a peacemaker amongst those I’m with

Amen

(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/22/teenage-girls-crime-bullying-increase
(2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/6597032/Woman-tracked-down-nightclub-attacker-on-Facebook.html

This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2009

About the author: Brian Radcliffe

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