Voices Of Our Youth: Unlearning Violence & Building Community

For over 17 years, API Legal Outreach, through its Youth Advisory Council program has worked on the front lines to break the cycle of violence against women. When API Legal Outreach first started domestic violence services, it did not take long to realize that children were either direct or indirect victims of abuse through family violence and upheaval. In working in our community, it also became apparent that violence against young women was becoming prevalent and accepted.

At the core of our work is the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), which coordinated the project. The YAC is a group of 10-20 high school age youth from the East Bay and San Francisco who seek to break the silence about dating violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault within the API community. By educating their peers through workshops, trainings and media arts projects, the YAC reaches out to peers, with the goal of changing attitudes and beliefs which accept or promote violence against women. Past projects have included the creation of ‘zines, video productions, and youth created silk-screened violence prevention posters. The YAC also produced and directed award winning videos including, Young Asianz Rising! Breaking Down Violence Against Women that premiered at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and was an AMMY award winner as Best Documentary; and Come Back to Me, awarded best public service film at the Real Teens Film Festival. Along with YAC’s mainstay annual events and activities such as the That’s Not Love talent show and Love Shouldn’t Have to Hurt poster contest, other projects included a web-based computer game that teaches users how to make healthy decisions in dating relationships and a music video to educate youth about sexual harassment.

The Youth Advisory Council of API Legal Outreach continued to reach out to youth across the Bay Area remaining relevant in the lives of today’s young people. By utilizing the mobile technology program, the www.thatsnotlove.org website, as well as arts/media projects, and education in classrooms, YAC has made an impact in the young API community. YAC’s goal for young people going through our program is the deeper realization of the roots of violence, the appreciation of their personal worth and strengths, and the discovery of their voices in changing the community.

With support from the Neighborhood Justice Fund of the SF District Attorney’s Office, this year YAC authored and produced an anti-bullying play dealing with the rights of LGBTQ youth. YAC members taught workshops to high school students about healthy and unhealthy relationships. YAC members wrote their own grant applications and received a Youth Empowerment Grant to fund for their 10th Annual “That’s Not Love” Talent Show. The talent show, attend by over 200, is an event where youth from all over the Bay Area showcase their unique talents.

Peer Counseling Goes Online & Mobile

The Youth Advisory Council launched two new, exciting projects that significantly enhanced the project’s ability to continue education and violence prevention efforts among their peers for years to come. Through www.thatsnotlove.org, teens with questions about dating violence are able to learn about the various aspects of relationship abuse and obtain resources to seek help. Through this site young people will be able to not only get referrals to local resources to assist with problems of violence and abuse but will be able to discuss concerns, ideas, and solutions with the project’s trained peer counselors. The website provides an anonymous venue specifically for the API community where teens can discuss dating violence and sexual harassment with peers who understand their situation.

API-ACT, a Summer of History and Activism

The YAC expanded its core mission to launch API-ACT (Asian Pacific Islander Activism & Community Teach Out), a summer program aimed at instilling in youth a sense of API history, community, and pride. As part of the YAC “activist camp,” youth learned about the histories of a variety of API communities and non-profit organizations, as well as taking field trips to sites of particular significance in API history; not tourist areas but places like Angel Island Immigration Station and the rebuilt International Hotel.

The term in the title “teach-out” refers to young people learning the roll of community organizing and applying it to solving specific problems impacting their community.