Mentors in Violence Prevention Essay

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The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model is an approach to gender violence and bullying prevention that was created in 1993 at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. With initial funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the multiracial MVP program was designed to train college and high school male student-athletes and other student leaders to use their status to speak out against rape, battering, sexual harassment, gay-bashing, and all forms of sexist abuse and violence. A female component was later added with the complementary principle of training female student-athletes and others to be leaders on these issues.

The MVP model utilizes a creative bystander approach to gender violence prevention. It focuses on men not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers—and support abused ones. It focuses on women not as victims or potential targets of harassment, rape, or abuse, but as empowered bystanders who can support abused peers—and confront abusive ones. In this model, a bystander is defined as a family member, friend, classmate, teammate, or coworker—anyone who is embedded in a family, social, or professional relationship with someone who might be abusive or be experiencing abuse.

The heart of the model is interactive discussion in single and mixed-gender workshops using real-life scenarios that speak to the experiences of young men and women in college, high school, and other areas of social life. The chief curricular innovation of MVP is a training tool called the Playbook, which consists of realistic scenarios depicting abusive male (and sometimes female) behavior. The Playbook transports participants into scenarios as witnesses to actual or potential abuse, then challenges them to consider a number of concrete options for intervention before, during, or after an incident. Many people mistakenly believe they have only two options in cases of violence: intervene physically and possibly expose themselves to personal harm or do nothing. As a result, they often choose to do nothing.

But intervening physically or doing nothing are not the only possible choices. The MVP model provides bystanders with numerous options, most of which carry no risk of personal injury. With more options to choose from, people are more likely to respond and not be passive and silent—and hence complicit—in violence or abuse by others.

By the late 1990s, MVP had become the most widely utilized gender violence prevention program in college and professional athletics. Numerous Division I, II, and III athletic programs regularly participate in MVP trainings. The National Collegiate Athletic Association uses MVP materials in its Life Skills program. In 1997, MVP became the first gender violence prevention program in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps, and trainings have also been held with Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel. Although it began in the sports culture, by the mid-1990s, MVP had moved from a near-exclusive focus on the athletic world to general populations of college and high school students and to other institutional settings.

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