How to Change the Game 


When I was in college, I learned the statistic: somewhere between 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 women will be a victim of an attempted sexual assault by the time they graduate. But it didn’t truly hit home for me until I heard from women I cared about — friends, partners, family, and acquaintances – who told me that they themselves were part of that statistic.

I remember thinking: I’ve never assaulted anyone. No one I know has ever told me that they had, either. So how does this keep happening? I realized that I needed to do more. Enter, GameChangers.

When I started with GameChangers two and a half years ago, I thought that this was a good program, run by good people, with a good mission. But there was no way, I thought, that middle school boys would want to talk to me about preventing sexual assault. Quickly I learned I thought wrong — and over the course of the 15 groups I have led — our biggest program advocates haven’t been the schools or the mentors or the YWCA staff, but the participants themselves.

Before GameChangers, the only way middle schoolers would even talk about these issues was through jokes in school hallways or whispers at the back of the bus. Now, they have a purposeful and inclusive space to learn and ask questions of trained, adult men who care about them.

As a program, we don’t approach the boys as potential abusers, but as violence interrupters and we empower them to make a difference. Throughout the program, we talk about how they can safely change the game in situations in their everyday lives. We also discuss a number of topics: objectification, healthy relationships, stereotypes, masculinity, and more.

GameChangers isn’t like school: our groups are discussion-based, not lecture-style. We work intentionally to make our participants feel ownership over our groups, so their thoughts and their feelings will be heard and respected. We also include different material for every different learning style – like activities, stories, videos, technical definitions, and more.

YWCA started GameChangers over six years ago and I’m proud of all that we have accomplished since. If you are reading this, I want to welcome you to our GameChangers team. Stay tuned right here or on our Facebook for updates and stories, written by the staff and mentors who had the same realization I had just a few years ago: we all need to do more.

– Donald Black, GameChangers Mentor Coordinator

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