Ally is a comprehensive abuse and violence prevention program housed in the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network in Athens, Ohio. The primary aim of Ally is to partner with relevant organizations to equip their members with the skills and knowledge to have positive interpersonal relationships with their peers, family, and romantic partners. Ally does this by conducting educational presentations with a wide variety of organizations and audiences to compliment the education and awareness actives already being undertaken by the organization. Ally programs aim to supplement the existing educational activities of the organization and thus, are designed to be complimentary while also comprehensive by addressing a wide range of topics in response to organizational need. Although diverse, Ally programming is developed using evidence-based curricula that are known to reduce the risk factors of or increase the protective factors against perpetrating or being a victim of abuse.
As part of our strategic plan, we offer a variety of age-appropriate prevention activities tailored for elementary, middle school, and high school students in Athens, Hocking, Meigs, and Vinton Counties. Workshops for elementary school students focus on empathy and assertiveness skills and can incorporate bully prevention curriculum such as Second Step. Workshops for middle school students focus on communication skills and what a healthy relationship should look like. Workshops for high school students build on more of the same and delve deeper into the societal norms that lead to cultures that support violence such as gender stereotypes and the limiting representations of both men and women in the media. We talk more about the principles of prevention and do bystander intervention training, where we outlines specific strategies that anyone can use to safely move from being a passive bystander to an active ally in the fight to end harassment, intimidation, and violence.
Our work with community organizations has included similar workshops for the Boy Scouts and after-school groups run by Children’s Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as trainings for adults in how to talk to kids about dating, consent, and violence. Adult groups have included teacher in-services, police trainings, workshops for foster parents, and bystander intervention trainings for area bartenders. We have also hosted movie screenings and discussion forums on topics including media representation of women, healthy masculinity, and what men can do to be active allies.
Our program’s sole focus is on Primary Prevention, as opposed to Secondary or Tertiary Prevention that works with survivors to rebuild skills and begin the healing process after an abusive incident has occurred. Primary Prevention involves strategies that occur before a problem takes place in order to prevent that problem from occurring in the first place. To create change we must address attitudes and beliefs that contribute to the normalizing and acceptance of violence. We must not only look at individual behaviors and beliefs, but also at the belief systems of those that surround the individual, of the communities in which we live, in our institutions, the broader society, and the political system.
Primary Prevention takes violence prevention beyond intervention and risk reduction. This paradigm shifts takes the emphasis away from protective and limiting measures for the potential victim and toward ending perpetration. Primary prevention involves addressing not only the behaviors and attitudes we want to end, but also pushes the dialogue toward behaviors and attitudes we want to see. Ending violence requires a holistic approach that on the outset might appear daunting, but when compared to successful public health campaigns is much more tangible.
Ally has existed in some form or another for over 15 years. Programming began at Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services with nationally known and tested Child Assault Prevention (CAP) and then expanded to include TeenCAP. In 2006, the focus and funding for the programming changed, and the program became the Sexual Assault Prevention Program. In the years that followed, the Sexual Assault Prevention Program morphed into a primary prevention program utilizing the ecological model. In 2017, the program took on a broader focus, both in name and in programming, and renamed the program Ally. See our page, Principle of Prevention for more on our logic model.