Evanston nonprofits Y.O.U., YWCA to tackle dating violence with new grant

Rachel Janik, Reporter

An Evanston youth agency is teaming up with the YWCA Evanston/Northshore to fight dating violence, thanks to recently awarded federal funds that will arrive in June.

Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc., which provides support for young people, collaborated with the YWCA to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The program they proposed, “Allied Against Violence,” will educate men and boys on building healthy relationships and empowering them as community ambassadors to target dating violence, said Seth Green, Y.O.U.’s executive director.

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women awards 20 grants nationally, and the Evanston proposal secured $350,000, the only sum awarded in Illinois.

“Engaging men and boys — we know that this is essential,” Green said. “This is a key piece of adolescent development.”

Justice Department officials stressed the importance of reducing the number of abusive teen relationships in a news release issued in February about the $12.6 million provided in grants to fight dating violence.

“Teen dating violence is about our community, our schools and our relationships,” said Tony West, acting associate attorney general, in a news release. “As fathers, brothers, coaches, teachers and classmates — men’s voices must be part of this conversation — as men, both young and old, this is our individual and collective responsibility.”

Green approached YWCA executive director Karen Singer about a possible collaboration. Singer said she was excited about the partnership, which “brings together what we both do best.”

Y.O.U. has been an active youth development agency in Evanston since 1971 and hosts a number of programs providing mentoring, after-school activities and parent engagement for young people The YCWA provides comprehensive resources to women and children who are victims of domestic violence and promotes healthy relationships and social wellness among students. The organization has a partnership with Northwestern to promote women’s health and fight dating violence, Singer said.

“We are the advisers, trainers, the organization that brings expertise,” Singer said. “We have a really exciting opportunity with this grant — enlisting men and boys in being advocates to end (sexual violence).”

“Allied Against Violence” will launch in June. Y.O.U. and the YWCA will partner train young men in healthy relationships and how to prevent dating violence. Participants will then receive stipends to speak about the issue at community events.

The partnership will also include mentors from the Men’s Project at Loyola University Chicago, which empowers men to combat rape and violence against women. The group was selected after it expressed interest in working with young people on the issue, Green said.

“It’s basically a ‘train the trainer’ model,” he said.

Singer said the program could have far-reaching positive effects in the community.

“The more people who are saying this is not okay, the more we can fight it,” she said. “To hear it coming from boys and men is a really critical message to be sending.”