| By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito explained to a number of YWCA employees engaged in the issue of domestic violence that the state’s new “Respectfully” campaign is aimed to encouraging behaviors that would prevent abuse and bullying.
Polito met with the group on July 16 in the YWCA’s Clough Street facility, which is a domestic violence shelter.
She said state officials have been listening to youths and others and have heard that many young people “are not fully prepared for life after graduation and they are not prepared to deal with unhealthy friendships and relationships.”
The legislature authorized $500,000 in funds for an outside agency to create a social media campaign that would address these issues.
In May, Polito and the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, in partnership with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Legislature, premiered “Respectfully” aimed at youth ages 12 to 18.
“We wanted this campaign not to be driven by adults but by the youth of Commonwealth,” Polito said.
The campaign uses animated message 15 to 20 seconds in length to address issues such as abuse and bullying that are seen on preferred social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat.
According to a press release from the Commonwealth, the goals are:
• Target youth between the ages of 12-18, as well as their parents, caregivers, and adults involved in youth-serving organizations.
• Increase awareness about what constitutes a healthy relationship by defining characteristics using examples of acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors.
• Focus on promoting healthy relationships and confronting the issues around healthy boundaries and behaviors while communicating key components around respect and honesty through short videos with modern animations conveying a clear message on social media platforms that teens are using every day.
• Encourage parents, caregivers and adults in youth serving organizations like educators, mentors and school resource officers among others to have open, honest, non-judgmental and continuous conversations with youth about respect in friendships and romantic relationships in order to help to lower the risk for teens experiencing unhealthy or abusive relationships.
• Help teens identify the escalating behaviors that lead to unhealthy or unsafe relationships and remove themselves from those relationships.
The script for one of the messages illustrates the approach:
Setting: Three young teen girls are hanging out in a bedroom. They all have their smartphones in hand and are listening to music.
Character 1: Hey, what’s up with your group text about Kayla?
Character 2: Yea, I was wondering about that too. Character 3: I just needed to vent about what happened the other day.
Character 1: … if you’re upset, just talk to her!
Character 3: Oh, I don’t know. Do I really need to?
Character 2: You’ll both feel better if you talk it out.
Character 3: I guess you’re right. Let me see if she’s around.
Voice over: Respect everyone, fully. Visit mass.gov/respectfully to learn more. Executive Director Kelly Dwyer of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual
Assault and Domestic Violence said the campaign videos on social media have had “an insane amount of views.” There have been 170,000 completed views on YouTube in so far in the campaign.
Polito said the next step is to have schools use the material and for the Commonwealth’s school committees to adopt resolutions supporting its use of the classroom.