29 February, 2016

EXERCISE: Stay safe!

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Category: gender equality, sexist hate speech
Community Manager
10 pm

This is a recommended exercise to be implemented with young people within the Action Day countering hate speech on the 8th March. The exercies is adapted from the educational manual “Gender Matters”.

“It is hard to fight an enemy that has out posts in your head.” Sally Kempton

Group size 8 to 20

Time 60 minutes

Overview This activity illustrates gender differences related to the sexist speech, and addresses the lack of availability of appropriate information for young people on the true nature of interpersonal violence such as relationship violence or bullying and the effects of sexist speech


To recognise the different levels and areas of concern for safety that men and women, and boys and girls have in the on-line spaces and communities• To discover the gap between the realities of  sexist on-line speech  and  how this perceived as a serious issue

• To identify some ways in which youth work can play a role in raising awareness about the effect of sexist on-line speech

Materials • One flipchart sheet and markers for each of the sub-groups

Preparation Set out a circle of chairs in the middle of a large free space for the introduction to the activity. Place flip chart paper and markers in different places in the room or space, close to where the groups will work be working


Explain that this exercise is about bringing together what individuals regularly do in order to be and stay safe on line and what are the challenges they face in terms of offensive and /or hate speech. Tell participants that single sex groups will create lists of their own, and then will share them and discuss their findings together.

Form sub-groups. These should be single-sex groups, each of a maximum of four or five people. Tell the groups that they should share and brainstorm on the subject of ‘staying safe on-line’, in other words, participants should think about and share things they actually do to avoid violence and to stay safe from violence in the on-line enviroment. They should also think about the kind of threats to their safety they actually face on a regular basis- (for example hatefull Facebook comments).

Ask each group to go to the prepared working spaces in the room or close by. Give the groups about 20 minutes for the reflection and to make a list on the flip chart.

Get the groups back together, and ask eacheach to report. Hang all the flipcharts next to each other in a visible place. If there were several sub-groups of the same sex, place those flipcharts next to each other.

Debriefing and evaluation

Ask for a round of first impressions about the exercise and about the results. A good way to kick off this discussion is to check if anyone is surprised by the discussion they had in the group, or by the results of their or other groups’ work.

Typical results that arise and need to be addressed include: The lists prepared by the women’s group/s are often far more detailed and longer than that of the men’s group/s and cover more types of threat to women’s safety:

  • What do you think about this difference?
  • Where do you think it comes from?
  • Does socialisation play a role?

The lists prepared by both male and female groups often focus heavily on precautions against violence from complete strangers, even though there is evidence that violence is most often perpetrated by people known to victims:


  • Are the lists of threats representative of the actual dangers boys and girls, men and women face in their daily lives as part of the on-line community? Why? Why not?
  • If not, what realities are missing from the list?
  • Why do you think they did not appear in the discussion and are therefore missing?
  • Can you identify any of the  offensive in your local context? If so, do you think the precautions for staying safe and avoiding offensive, hate speech suggested by the groups are relevant or effective?

You can continue the debriefing by initiating a discussion about the information that young people receive about violence:

  • What kind of information do we receive aboutsexist hate speech?? Where does such information come from? Is it credible? Do young people take it seriously?
  • Why do you think children and young people are warned about certain dangers or forms of violence, but  when it comes to on-line spaces some threats are not taken seriously?
  • Whose job is it or should it be to inform young people and children about sexist speech or staying safe, including in the on-line environment?
  • In what way could the youth sector contribute to providing credible information and advice to young people about sexist hate speech and staying safe?
  • How could you or your organisation contribute to making a change in this respect?

Be aware that if most participants have the attitude that they are safe from violence, an attitude that often results in victim blaming, this exercise can raise ‘prejudiced’ attitudes towards victims of violence. When talking about taking precautions against violence or being

active in the defence of one’s own safety, the balance in the discussion can easily tip in the direction of placing blame on the victims for not having done enough for themselves. Make sure that both direct and meta-communication makes clear that perpetrators are always responsible for their own actions. A lack of information about safety or being in a vulnerable position for objective or subjective reasons does not cause violence and people not ensuring their own safety do not decide to become victims. Perpetrators, on the other hand, actively decide to use violence.

Be aware that some participants may believe that on-line sexist speech is not a serious problem and that if the threats are made in the virtual space, they do not have an impact in real life. Explain the importance of maintaing a safe envoiroment even in virtual spaces and if possible provide examples on how virtual violence and on-line hate speech impact daily lives of vulnerable groups. Explain why women face different forms of hate speech (e.g rape threats)

Explain that violence is a social phenomenon, as opposed to aggression, which is a biological

one. As such, being safe from violence requires learned social skills. Make sure you focus the discussion on the extent to which society, through its different institutions from family to school,prepares young people for the most typical forms of violence committed against them.

For potential follow-up and other interesting content please check out the useful links, or other relevant campaigns, or other educational resources, or articles and videos.

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