WORLAND – “There is a lot of concern about our youth and drug uses and violence in our community right now,” noted Washakie County Victim and Witness Coordinator Bob Vines, who just wrapped up a three-city tour of a film highlighting positive role models for young men, and how society treats masculinity as it shapes teenagers.
“I was happy that the people who attended [the film and lectures] understand the worth of talking about these problems with our youth,” said Vines, who led discussions after the viewing of “The Mask We Live In” in Worland, Lovell and Thermopolis last month. The primary audience of coaches, teachers, parents and community leaders were exactly what Vines was hoping for.
“I knew going into it that we would get a specific audience,” said Vines.
The film follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. The film was written, produced and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2015.
The documentary presents the personal narratives of young boys and men and features experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education and media, further exploring how gender stereotypes are interconnected with socio-economic circumstances. “The Mask You Live In” ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men, according to a press release.
While Vines has retained three copies of the film to loan out to groups and school, he notes that the documentary is available on Netflix for general viewing, and encourages parents to watch the film with their teens.
Moving into the third year of a Tri-County Pilot Community grant, partly funded by the Wyoming Department of Health, Vines will continue to promote positive role models for youth, primarily through the Coaching Boys into Men program. The program works with coaches to teach athletes positive social behavior, while focusing on male and female relationships grounded in mutual respect.
Along with continuing the Coaching Boys into Men program, the Student Leaders and Athletic Youth (SLAY) program is getting its first rural debut, when Washakie County schools became only the second in the nation to test the program, starting with the spring sports seasons.
Developed by Rebecca Milliman, a prevention specialist at Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress in Seattle, the program, which focuses on female student athletes, like the companion series Coaching Boys into Men, has only been utilized in Seattle public schools so far, to teach female students their rights as women to stand up against negative stereotypes and violence of all types.
For the past year, Vines has been trying to introduce Coaching Boys into Men into Washakie County schools, with some success. The program utilizes training for coaches to run the program with their student athletes, to empower young men to stand up to negative situations and act as role models when faced with sexual aggression toward women, and violence in general as a means of expression.
In Lovell, the Coaching program has been fully implemented, with track coaches spending 20 minutes per week with the curriculum. Lovell also planned to implement SLAY at the same time it is introduced to Washakie County.
As Victim and Witness Coordinator, Vines worked 78 victim cases in 2016, including 28 cases of domestic violence, eight cases of stalking, two adult sexual assault cases, and 16 juvenile cases, and advocated for 147 witnesses in the Fifth Judicial District Court.
Vines believes that preventive programs like SLAY and Coaching Boys into Men can have a positive effect, and reduce assault and particularly sexual assault in the future.
“We have to continue to combine violence and drug and alcohol use when we consider the problems facing our youth,” said Vines. “In the end they are all connected.”