Hi! My name is Sona and I work for Young Devon. I am one of four Peer Researchers here in Plymouth. We’re in collaboration with Peer Action Collective (PAC) who have commissioned us on a yearlong project on Youth Violence.

Youth violence, to me, means when young people are mistreated by their peers or older individuals in a way that makes them feel small, undervalued, and upset. This does not have to be ‘violent’ in the traditional sense of the word. It can take on many different forms including bullying, physical fighting, coercion, gang violence, sexual assault, harassment, emotional and or psychological abuse. It can also occur in friendships and relationships if young people have not been given the opportunity to learn about boundaries and how to properly exert them.

This leads me onto talking about the important work we have been completing here in Plymouth. My team and I have the opportunity to research education and awareness of Youth Violence among local young people. In this, we have had the chance to speak to an array of young people through schools, youth groups and young people focused organisations. We have conducted our research via workshops, focus groups, and one-to-one interviews.

Our research has been eye-opening to say the least. It sadly reveals that young people felt the responsible adults, that are given the duty of protecting and helping them, do not have the resources to do so. Many young people also feel that they are ostracized and ‘’othered’’ when incidents of bullying or being bullied occur. Countless young people also brought up the fact that people that are bullied are victim-blamed rather than supported. Young people also feel that issues such as fighting in schools are often dealt with very poorly. Young people felt that their teachers do not know how to deal with youth violence in schools when it occurs and how to deal with the aftermath of it.

I strongly believe that the resolution to this issue is multi-faceted, and that systemic change needs to occur. However, I firmly believe that change starts on a small scale and can snowball into something big.

This brings me onto talking about a resource pack I am creating for teaching professionals in Plymouth. I believe education around trauma-informed care would benefit teachers, and therefore young people.

Trauma informed care is essentially taking a holistic approach to one’s practice; it includes seeing a person for who are rather than being quick to jump the gun by labelling them as a ‘bad egg’ or a different negative stereotype. It also humanises individuals as it acknowledges that their lived experiences have shaped them and influences their behaviours.

My resource pack takes you through step by step our projects findings in more detail, which includes real-life quotes as well as literature reviewed evidence that supports our research. It also includes recommendations to implement in your own daily practice. It is intended for teaching professionals; however, it will undoubtedly help anyone who would like to learn more about trauma informed care.

My time with Young Devon and PAC has changed the way I see and react to so many things. It has shaped me in so many ways that I am lost for words. I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to shine a light on issues faced by young people and to implement social action on a local level and to push for it on a national level.

If you would like to get involved in our project and make change locally, please feel free to sign our Professional Pledge; this is where you vow to Young Devon (and yourself!) that you will participate in social change to help overcome Youth Violence; this could take form in a countless number of ways e.g. unpacking your unconscious bias, actively implementing small but sustainable changes in your daily life and or helping young people by volunteering for young people centred organisations.

This Pledge has been developed by my fellow Peer Researcher Dominque. My resource pack is freely available to download after you sign up to our Pledge. Additionally, my colleague, Fintan has created a resource pack for young people regarding Mindset when it comes to Youth Violence.

Thank you for reading, I hope that together we can make tomorrows future for young people a much brighter one!

Want to find out more about the Peer Action Collective? Visit our PAC webpage, to read all about our project! We are currently looking for 10-20 year olds to become Changemakers, and local businesses and authority figures to sign our Professional Pledge.