Educate the Public
The pilot sites held classes for persons with disabilities and those who are Deaf. These classes often included role playing and discussions and were tailored to the learning needs and experiences of each audience.
Possible topics for your community to explore include the following:
- Healthy relationships.
- Boundaries and assertive communication.
- Power and privilege.
- Abuse in relationships and how to recognize it.
- Safety tips.
- Sexual harassment.
- Victim service resources.
Although the following list is not comprehensive, it does list steps that may help you plan your educational sessions:
- Identify the learning objectives for each session. What specific knowledge or skills do you expect participants to achieve? Are these expectations reasonable and based on the target audience?
- Select materials or a curriculum that fits the reading and comprehension levels of your audience.
- Discuss and post class guidelines to promote a safe environment for discussion and sharing. Be clear from the beginning that everybody is encouraged to participate, and everyone has a right to decline participating. Assure participants that taking a break if they need one is okay. Most important, be a model for respectful relationships by listening and responding thoughtfully to what audience members say.
- Class participants may disclose past or current victimization. Check with your state’s adult protective services agency to determine your state’s legal requirements about reporting suspicions and disclosures of abuse against persons with disabilities. At the beginning of the class, let participants know if your state requires you to report known or suspected abuse. This allows people to make informed decisions about how much information they share in class.
If someone does disclose abuse, let that person know that he or she can report the abuse to adult protective services and that you can be present if that would feel supportive. Offer to help make the initial contact. Assist with safety planning if necessary, and provide referrals to resources the person may need (e.g., emergency shelter, emergency protective orders, forensic exam, counseling, law enforcement, crime victim compensation).
- Hearing or talking about situations of abuse can sometimes act as a trigger to survivors of violence, to the point that some people experience the terror of abuse again—this time in the classroom. As you choose materials and plan your curriculum, reduce that possibility by avoiding pictures or discussions of graphic or frightening incidents.
- Create open-ended questions that will engage participants as you begin the discussion (e.g., Who are the most important people in your life?).
- Practice transition statements that will help move the discussion along if needed (e.g., “Now that we’ve talked about some of the important people in your life,” or “Let’s talk about who would help you if you had a problem”).
- People learn in different ways. Some learn best through reading, some through spoken words, some through practice. To fit different learning styles, experiment with various ways to deliver the information (e.g., games, role playing, facilitated discussion). Limit the time you spend standing in front of the group simply talking.
- Plan a time for the facilitator to debrief as soon as possible after the session. Talking through what went well and what needs improvement while the experience is fresh will give trainers ideas for improving future classes and discussions.