‘These workshops generate a change, trigger questions or doubts in the students, which is necessary to change society’

Soledad Andrés, Luana Bruno and Zoraida de la Osa have developed workshops for High Schools to identify, to prevent and to minimize episodes of gender violence in affective-sexual relationships among teenagers.  Dr. Soledad Andrés Gómez, Luana Bruno and Zoraida de la Osa, research and teaching staff in the Department of Educational Sciences, also participate in the Gender Chair Isabel Múñoz de Caravaca. In this interview for uah.esnoticia, Soledad and Luana share the research process and how these workshops were developed.

Can you explain the initiative you have implemented?

L.B.: It is a research project that we have been carrying out since 2018. We are also members of the Isabel Muñoz Caravaca Chair of Gender Studies, but, in addition to this, we have a sub-team that also works on issues related to gender violence in teenagers.

This project is based on the need to participate in the current situation of this type of violence in young people, carrying out research and action work in which we could be involved in order to generate a change in them. This interest in this vital stage is originated by the importance it has in the development of human beings. Therefore, they are people who, if they do not change now their behaviour or their way of thinking influenced by stereotypes or generalizations, can become adult victims of gender violence, aggressors or instigators in this type of conflicts.

With this objective in mind, we thought about how to contribute to help the young people make a change.

Why did you think that group workshops were appropriate to work on these issues with teenagers?

A.A.: We have a career in conducting research on issues related to teenagers. Specifically, I have spent several years studying issues related to bullying and cyberbullying in educational settings more recently. Moreover, in area, Educational Psychology, most of the scientific production has to do with development in childhood and teenagers.

Also, as Luana has mentioned, the adolescence is a very important stage in life, because it is not only a transition between childhood and adulthood, but it has specific properties where, potentially, there are great opportunities to guide the development in the intellectual-cognitive sense, in the social sense. Also in regard to moral development, which is linked to the development of social competencies that will guide thinking and behavior towards support, prosociality or, in the opposite case, towards antisocial behaviors or aggression.

L.B.: The group dynamics also helped us to generate a debate among the students. That is, we participated in the discussion with a facilitating attitude, with the intention of creating a close environment in which, through the moral dilemmas that we generated, stories of a narrative nature very similar to those experienced by any adolescent, they could feel identified and participate. From these dilemmas or questions, for example, how would they be or how would they react in a situation of gender violence, an atmosphere of debate is created thanks to their answers.

S.A.: Perhaps we should emphasize that individual work and group work, in which boys and girls participate freely, is the key to the work because it links the specificity of these workshops in which the researchers, teachers or facilitators take on a role that guides the questions, making suggestions for the group to advance and to contrast among themselves topics that concern them or that are very controversial. It is not so much a question of direction or exposition, but of allowing the free flow of the participants’ thoughts, bearing in mind that in a group of adolescents there will always be boys and girls with higher levels of moral and intellectual development than others. Thus, those who are more advanced pull more on the development of those who have not yet reached that point. That is the interest of the workshop format itself.

– How did social media have an influence on the rise in gender-based violence among adolescents and in bullying?

L.B.: There are different studies that have studied affective-sexual relationships and the use of social media as a means of maintaining this type of relationship. Social media have a significant influence on the increase in gender-based violence episodes. The studies that precede our qualitative research, but quantitative studies are already being carried out on the same topics in terms of social media, adolescents and affective-sexual issues.

And it is interesting to see how the results of our research match with previous studies where it is framed clearly how violence is exercised, using the channel of social media and, above all, manifested in aggressive behaviors and are presented more in guys who often use social media to humiliate girls, mainly posting pictures of their bodies, where they appear naked or with suggestive poses. On these occasions, they use the protection of the screen, with pseudonyms or nicknames, to be able to swear and harass. Moreover, they do not see this as something negative; they do not perceive it as a problem. Recently, I was reading a study that talked about the high number of children who use social networks to harass or swear.

Therefore, we perceive an increase in gender violence in adolescents on social media mostly because at this vital stage, although they are hyperconnected, they do not make proper use of the social media or do not see the danger when sharing their private life. We must understand that social networks, if not used in the right way, can become dangerous for different reasons.

Girls also use social media to swear at and harass girls. But here there is a difference, one that is small but interesting. These girls perform these behaviors with other girls, with other young women whom they perceive as opponents. So, once again, women are once again victims of a type of violence in which there is competence, which is generated by a rivality, by a patriarchal society in which we are educated to compete among women and not to collaborate in the construction of a sorority.

Finally, as Dr. Andres pointed out, one of the reasons why these episodes of gender violence are frequent on the network or in the use of social networks is closely linked to the phenomenon that has been called emotional disconnection, the fact that I can feel protected or protected by a screen, the fact that if I have a friendship through social media will not be the same as a relationship in the real world, then you can not empathize with the suffering of the other, you feel disconnected. This makes that in this world where everything is online, it is easier to do harm without realizing what it can do to another person.

For these reasons, in the workshops we perform, we are very involved in the debates and conversations that we generate with them.

– To close the interview, have you considered or designed new activities related to this research?

S.A.: Yes, of course. We are currently working on several projects. We cannot detail them right now because they are in process, but we can anticipate what we are doing in one of them. Specifically, this activity is linked to the team of the Isabel Muñoz de Caravaca Chair, deepening the issues of adolescence and equality in which other European research teams also participate on the same topic. As they are in process, until we can not confirm because we are participating in competitive grants, we can not anticipate much more. But we can explain that we have just begun to study the phenomenon that interests us in a special way, the educational action in the dissemination of the results with a clear approach of intervention in high schools mainly. We are going to continue to increase the population we are working with, increasing the sample, in order to achieve a deeper understanding of the problems that arise and to be able to make suggestions for increasing or improving the research and actions we are proposing.

L.B.: The workshops that we explain have been carried out in two high schools in the Community of Madrid that we would like to extend to any educational institution that is interested. They are not the typical talks that are usually given in high schools, but are workshops where we work in an active, participatory and collaborative way with the students. These workshops generate a change, provoke reflections or doubts in the students, something indispensable to change society. To make them think that there are different positions, to make them wonder if they are acting well or not, empathizing with the victims, because this is the only way they can perceive the issues that we are dealing with on an individual basis.

Source: Universidad de Alcalá

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