Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) is a peer mentoring programme that aims to create safe and supportive learning environments by challenging bullying and abuse, building relationships and creating partnerships between schools and communities.
MVP trains secondary school students to speak out against all forms of bullying, violence and abusive behaviour and focuses on an innovative ‘bystander’ approach that empowers each student to take an active role in promoting a positive school climate.
Within the MVP programme young people are identified not as victims or perpetrators but as empowered bystanders able to support peers and challenge inappropriate behaviour. The programme has the potential to improve and reduce rates of exclusions and the occurrence of violent incidents; it can also bring about a change in culture within schools towards a more restorative approach to behaviour and also create a safer and more settled environment.
West Midlands MVP
MVP is a partnership approach, based in schools, which aims to promote positive relationships within the school environment and wider school community. Peer-led models are known to be effective in bringing about behaviour change and challenging group norms.
It is an evidence-based programme that originated in America, but has been implemented internationally, including being successfully rolled out across Scotland. Evidence from the first year of implementation in a pioneer Birmingham school suggests:
- 27% less exclusions
- 28% reduction in detention
- 10% reduction in repeat offending
The programme is been acknowledged as good practice by the West Midlands Violence Prevention Alliance, which also funds support for schools to implement.
It offers excellent opportunities to discuss a range of issues within an educational framework where positive relationships, Health and Wellbeing are key.
Violence is a complex issue and one which is very often not fully understood by those who are responsible for tackling it. We often deal with the violence we see but do not tackle the culture, beliefs and attitudes which may result in the physical act itself.
The introduction of “Bystander” training within the secondary school or university will start to tackle the culture, the beliefs and the attitudes that say its ok to abuse a girl/woman or its ok to hit a girl/woman. The approach will also allow discussions on bullying, harassment and different forms of hate crime, and the influence of the media in shaping our society.
A bystander approach focuses both on increasing a person’s knowledge that these behaviours are wrong as well as giving an individual the skills and confidence to intervene to prevent such behaviour as well as supporting the victim.
For boys and men, it invites them into the discussion on this issue, for women it empowers them to support their friends and allows them to feel confident to discuss these issues. Bystander approaches aim to create a positive culture which defines such abuse and violence as unacceptable.
Within our society a ‘false consensus’ exists. This is where the majority of people with healthy attitudes incorrectly think that they are in the minority. The bystander approach works by questioning these social norms, realigning beliefs as well as giving reassurance that positive intervention is possible.
The MVP Model
The MVP Programme was developed in the 1990’s by American educator Dr Jackson Katz who realized gender violence discussion seldom included men or boys. He wanted to persuade men to discontinue violent masculinity through engaging in dialogue instead of painting them as perpetrators or potential perpetrators.
The MVP model utilises a creative bystander approach to prevent all forms of bullying and gender based violence. Males and females are not looked at as potential victims or perpetrators but as empowered bystanders with the ability to support and challenge peers. Within the MVP Programme a bystander is defined as a friend, classmate, team-mate, colleague or relative. In other words, it is someone they know.
Aims of MVP Programme
- To raise awareness
- To challenge attitudes
- To open dialogue
- To inspire leadership
Benefits of MVP
Throughout the MVP Programme there is an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Once schools receive initial training their next task is to recruit and train a team of MVP mentors from the upper part of the school. It is this ‘boy to boy’ and ‘girl to girl’ mentoring that has demonstrated positive outcomes for the MVP programme as well as giving MVP mentors valuable life skills.
The MVP Programme makes use of a simple “playbook” to provide discussion on a range of behaviours which include:
- Dating Abuse
- Alcohol and consent
Origins of MVP
The MVP model was created by American educator Jackson Katz who realized gender violence discussion seldom included men or boys. He wanted to persuade men to discontinue violent masculinity through engaging in dialogue instead of painting them as perpetrators or potential perpetrators.
The original MVP model were workshops for male student athletes. Katz’s model generally revolves around simulation and role-playing, as well as large discussion-based group meetings consisting of both same-sex and different-sex students. As a part of his college initiative, his MVP model involves “holding three 90-minute sessions each year with each participating college team. A fourth session is scheduled for those student-athletes who wish to be trained further for work with younger students in middle and high school.”