An Interview with LifeWire’s Prevention Intern Evelyn
Evelyn has recently become an intern with LifeWire’s Social Change Team. They describe this internship as “a lot of work on education for youth—going into schools, working on curriculum for young people about teen dating violence, sexual violence, and allyship. It’s really important because these are common, but most teens don’t recognize them or aren’t able to identify and respond to them.”
Evelyn is also a co-president of GOVAA, a survivor-led, anti-racist school club where students empower one another to be impactful and informed bystanders. As part of GOVAA, they facilitate weekly meetings to address teen dating violence and sexual violence in their school and community. This includes school-wide projects such as ‘go boxes’ full of resources like sanitary products, condoms, bus passes, and snacks that students can access for free.
For Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), they are promoting teen dating violence awareness by putting up posters, statistics, and quotes around the school.
Evelyn is tremendously active in the community. They are also a Youth Crisis Specialist with Teen Link, where they take calls and chats from teens in crisis or people who might need connection. Teen Link is a local resource but is available to anyone aged 13-19 in the US. Evelyn regularly receives calls from across the county, including the East Coast! Teenlink was founded after a teen lost her life to dating violence.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
“My name is Evelyn. I accept any pronouns, I’m 17, and a senior at Interlake High School.”
How did you first get involved with gender-based violence activism?
During the summer before their freshman year of high school, Evelyn had friends already at Interlake High School. After hearing about GOVAA, they reached out to a friend who was a member. Their friend invited them to the summer training, and now Evelyn hosts the trainings. “It was an insightful experience, and I was excited to join GOVAA going into high school and learn more about these issues.”
What’s one thing you’ve learned that has stuck with you?
“My understanding of consent is something I developed the first time I stepped into a GOVAA summer training and has extended to how I view interpersonal relationships.” Evelyn explained that they found the Planned Parenthood FRIES acronym really insightful. “I have applied this to friendships, including making sure my friends never feel pressured to do anything. It also made me realize how important it is to have agency in any interpersonal relationship, to have control over the situation and be able to set boundaries.”
What advice would you give to other young people who want to join this movement?
“Before starting, it seems really intimidating, but it is a type of work that is a lot more accessible and impactful than people realize. My advice is to find a good starting point and collaborate with others. This is really important, because sometimes people with good intentions might make mistakes or focus on only certain aspects of issues. This way, you can check each other to make sure it’s the most effective.”
What long-term goals would you like to see the movement accomplish in our community and society at large?
One of Evelyn’s goals is systemic reform, especially around student access to resources and education. “A lot of schools are failing to take student needs into consideration. They aren’t asking youth what they need. They are more focused on punishment than helping students grow and process their trauma.” Evelyn shared that this extends to issues beyond gender-based violence on the Eastside, especially when it comes to mental health and substance use.
What are you doing next? What are your future goals?
Evelyn is hoping to expand GOVAA beyond Interlake. As part of their internship, they are updating In Their Shoes, an activity created by WSCADV, to make it more inclusive and representative of youth in our community today. We plan to submit this for approval once it’s complete.
Evelyn plans to start college in the fall and major in Cognitive Science. “I’m not sure where I’m headed, but wherever I do end up, I hope to continue to work on advocacy and education around gender-based violence.”
Is there anything else you want to share?
“If you want to make a difference, one of the most important things to do is to ask the people who would be directly impacted by it what they want. A lot of allyship and community development isn’t always survivor-based.”
What Can Adults Do To Support Young People?
- Regularly check in about relationship health, even if things seem “fine”
- Ask questions and listen without judgment—do not tell them what they “should” do
- Message that abuse is NOT okay or “normal”
- Respect young people’s choices
- Help with safety planning—support young people make plans the way they want to
- Connect them to appropriate resources (like LifeWire’s Youth Advocate!)
- Protect their privacy
- Keep communication open
Helping Youth Evaluate A Current Or Potential Partner
Youth can use the following questions to evaluate someone they are thinking of dating (or are currently dating):
- How does this person treat others?
- What is this person’s reputation?
- Does this person meet my expectations?
- Do I know anyone who has dated this person? What do they say about them?
- How did this person talk about their last partner after they broke up?
- Who are this person’s friends? How do they behave together?
Engaging Youth Who Are Causing Harm
See the problem: Let the youth know you see their behavior and are concerned about it.
- Listen: Ask the youth questions about their behavior.
- Let them know change is possible: Message that they can change their behaviors. Help them in getting professional support.
- Support: STAY IN TOUCH! Continue to be involved in their life and regularly check in about their relationship.