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Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Using The B.R.A.V.E System.

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing, actually having a hearty RAW conversation with Lois Wagner.

Lois shared some amazing snippets about teaching teenagers to develop healthier relationships and not fall into abusive relationships.

Teen dating violence has been reported as a major public health concern O'Leary et al .

Having worked with teenagers myself for many years i know this behaviour is rife in dangerously high levels and sometimes the kids themselves, our teens don't even realise that the behaviour is abusive and toxic.

I encourage you to listen, watch or read this UNCUT, PURE, RAW & HUMAN conversation.

The podcast is here.

If you prefer to watch video click on play button.

If you prefer to read, Here is the interview transcript.

Angela Karanja (00:03):

Hello, everyone. I'm so, so excited. My names Angela Karanja Raising Remarkable Teenagers. As always, we are here for parents because we want to empower you to Raise Highly Effective Teenagers. We want to help you to reach your parenting goals. We want to support you have peaceful homes, and we also want you to have enriched relationships with your teenagers.

We've' got a beautiful guest today and I'm so so excited because Lois has got a very special topic, one that's very close to my heart.

And I'm just going to allow Lois to just speak to us about those strategies, the snippets and steps for Raising Remarkable Teenagers. We'll have a very interactive conversation, but I'll mostly allow Lois to talk in this because (Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Using B.R.A.V.E) that's her specialty. And I'm so excited.

You guys let's go. Let's hear this. Let's give it up for Lois. Thank you so much Lois for coming. How are you?

Lois Wagner (01:22):

Hi, I'm great. And thank you so much, Angela, for, for running such a fantastic program. I think it is so necessary and I'm very grateful to be part of this.

Angela Karanja (01:36):

Thank you, so much you want to introduce yourself to my lovely, lovely friends and followers. All of us here, parents that want to have fulfilled parenting lives and we just want the best for our teenagers. So, we're always looking all over the world to find what's happening. What's happening? What good. What can help me in this? Why, why do we do that? Because we know it takes a village to raise lovely kids. Say, let's hear from you.

Lois Wagner (02:13):

Thank you. Well, you might be wondering about this picture in the background and why I've got such a picture, but it really is because I do want to do, because I've been on a journey I've been on a journey for, for many years, and it's, it's important that teenagers understand this journey. The parents understand this journey that I've been on because if they understand and can empathize with my journey, they can make a difference and they can make a difference to how men and boys treat girls and women. So that is what, what my journey's about. So, I help people move from situation where they've experienced some terrible trauma adversity or challenge and how they've got to overcome that and to grow. So, they grow from victim to survivor, to thriver and then to freedom. So that's what I do. I help people overcome the adversities and the challenges that have been forced upon them. And I do this because I was brutally attacked and raped, and it's just, I've spent a lot of my time helping people survive and to overcome the trauma of that. But what I really want to do is I want to stop that happening in the first place. And hence, I want to stop this kind of, this kind of angst and violence and gender-based violence. And that's what I now work on. I work on helping, working with teenagers mostly and getting them to understand how they can grow into strong, healthy adults.

Angela Karanja (04:10):

I feel you; I can feel that if we help our teenagers, because at that age, they're just beginning to have those relationships. Then they are able to identify what is right, what is abuse? What is control? And that way I want kids can end up having healthy relationships. Is that what I'm hearing from me?

Lois Wagner (04:37):

Absolutely. If they understand some basic rules then, and if they live by those and they have the courage and the strength to live by those, those, those concepts and, and do those behaviour, conduct those good solid behaviour, we can eradicate gender-based violence. Instead of teaching boys and men, not to rape and not to hurt women, let's teach them to be BRAVE.

Angela Karanja (05:10):

Right? Let's hear this. I love that. So, We want to teach them to be BRAVE, right? So, what does mean?

How To Eliminate Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Using The B.R.A.V.E System.

Lois Wagner (05:20):

Okay, so, you know, we go through life and we have behaviour that we learn from our parents that we learn from schools, from our friends, from our colleagues, and there's, some of them are often toxic and we refer to toxic masculinity. And if we can understand that toxic masculinity is not strength and we learn to be brave instead of strong, then we can, we can help them. So, I have created an acronym called brave. So, the B stands for Boundaries. It's so important. First that we learn to understand what our own boundaries are. What do we like doing? What do we not like doing? You know, we, we so often don't have full self-awareness. We don't understand. We don't go inside. Who is looking outside, what's happening around us, what our friends are doing? And we very seldom go inside and say, what are my boundaries?

Lois Wagner (06:20):

What do I like, who am I? So, it starts with itself awareness, understanding what you like, and then the people around you. If you're in a relationship, if you're dating your partner, what are the boundaries, your boundaries of your parents, even, or boundaries of your children, where are you not going to cross that line? It's understanding the people around you, your friends, your colleagues, your associates, your teachers, your pupils, just understanding those boundaries. And that's what the B is all about. We then, okay. Then we then go onto the R, which is Respect. And, you know, it's such a simple word. It's such a simple concept, but people are not always respectful of each other's boundaries. Maybe because they don't know what the boundaries are, but secondly, they don't respect them. They don't honour them. They say, that's just their belief system and not mine. So, we've got to install, respect into our teenagers and even younger than teenagers. We've got to start right from, from babyhood. What is respect with the little simple, please? And thank you. That is the first sign of respect. And, you know, I know it's difficult today, because people get very confused. You know, a man opens a door for a woman, and she says, I can open my own door. So, the next time it doesn't open the door for the woman. And she says, what's wrong with you? Why don't you open my door?

Angela Karanja (08:08):

Why are you not a gentleman?

Lois Wagner (08:10):

So, it gets hard. It gets hard for people to understand those boundaries, those expectations of other people. How do you respect it if you don't know what it is? So, at the end of the day, it comes down to one big word communication. If we can just learn to communicate honestly and openly. What do you like? How should I show my respect for you? It'll cure everything.

The Elements Of B.R.A.V.E System For Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Include B For Boundaries & R for Respect, Then A For Ask

Angela Karanja (08:41):

Oh brilliant. So, you said the first one, the first of the BRAVE is Boundaries. The second is Respect. Wow. I am loving this. I just want to hear more. Right?

Lois Wagner (08:57):

Okay. Then the A is Ask. It's all about agreement. You I'll ask, you ask, please might have a drink of water. And, and we don't always ask when we start getting into relationships, when you start as teenagers to start dating, are you asking, "may I hold your hand, can I kiss you on the cheek? Whatever it is. Are we asking or are we just taking advantage of the person? Because they do like me, that boy does like me. So, you know, I'll let him touch me. So, are we asking? And when we, you know, we always say consent NO means NO, but it's more than NO means NO, it is having an enthusiastic YES. Much more than A NO, because sometimes people don't know how to say NO. Or they, they not understood or they fearful to say no, because they think someone will laugh at them or somebody will think they are funny or not friendly. And so maybe they just to be afraid that they'll get hurt. So, they, they don't say NO, but they have not said YES.

Angela Karanja (10:16):

Wow. So, ASK. I actually never thought about it. How you said it. Like ASK. Can I hold your hand and just not assume because we like each other, I can just put my hand on you? I'd actually never thought of that. So, can you imagine me as an adult, not even thinking like that, what about teenagers today? Wow.

Lois Wagner (10:45):

But you know, it is difficult because if you are in a passionate moment and you feeling romantic, you can break that rule, but then say. Hey, is it okay if we carry on? So, it's a very fine line. You know, I can remember as a child going to the movies as a teenager, going to the movies and the boy next to me, takes my hand and I am wanting to, but I'm also scared. So, I pull away and then if he respects me, he will just, maybe say I'll try a little bit later and that's what it's important. I've shown him a no, it wasn't a, it wasn't a verbal, no, it was a physical, no, by putting my hand away. And so, it's so understanding the nonverbal language, looking at the signs that a little bit of stiffness, a tear, you know, there's so many signs saying, I don't want to do this. I'm not ready for this. I'm not happy with it. Not only communication, but verbal communication, but all the nonverbal cues, the signs, the movements and, and it also comes with emotional intelligence, that we understand how the other person is feeling.

Angela Karanja (12:03):

I can see how these are stringing together from Boundaries, understanding boundaries and then Respect because when someone one has boundaries, they are more likely to respect you. Someone who respects you they will ask. I can see how these are stringing together. Let's carry on. This is so amazing.

The V Element Of B.R.A.V.E System For Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Is Values...

Lois Wagner (12:24):

Then V is values. And, you know, we teach values from childhood in our schools, in our religious institutes, we teach values, the basic values, you know, don't kill don't, you know, those kind of basic ones, which are indoctrinated into us from children, but they are more value than that. And we each have our own set of personal values. And we don't know what they are half the time because we laugh. We do things. We're not quite sure why we do it or why we lock it or why we don't like something. So, one needs to really go through what are those things that I'm important to me? Yes. I don't want to hurt anybody, but maybe I value money. Maybe I value friendship or maybe I value good health, you know? So, it's identifying those things that are important for you. And then those things that are important to those around you.

Lois Wagner (13:25):

And how do we get this is by communicating or asking, what do you like? What don't you like more than boundaries? It goes into deeper values. And if you understand your own values and you understand the values of the people around you, then you won't mix with the wrong people. You will mix with similar people. You will become friends with people who share similar values to what you share. And that is so important as well is to just know who you are at a deep level and share that, share it. The other part of V is vulnerably; share it openly. And honestly, don't be afraid, be vulnerable, expose your feelings and your emotions to those people around you.

Angela Karanja (14:18):

Right. It's so important that you say about values because, I see, I see values sort of coming in like frequencies. So, when your values are at a particular frequency base, you only attract the people on the same frequency, right? It's like, like radio waves, to be honest, the frequency, if you choose not to 96.5, the only music you hear is the music on 96.5. So, the values that you hold strongly are going to make those people who are on the same level of gravitate. And that's why I think it's important when you say about values, because sometimes especially as parents, we can blame other kids. For example, Oh, I don't like it. My, my son is hanging with the wrong group. No, your son, your daughter, my son, my daughter has these values. So that's why they are on the same frequency with those people.

Angela Karanja (15:30):

Because the moment they shift to 98.8, they don't meet with those people, they meet with those on 98.8. And I had not thought about it like that, but you've coined it. You've coined it. And also, the other thing you said about vulnerability, I keep saying to parents, I keep saying to young people that vulnerability is strength. And they think no! You know, you know, teenagers want to be stoic. They want to be all strong and everything. And then I tell them story. I tell them stories of the many times that I have failed. I tell them stories of the time that I have, I have undergone incidents that are not nice. And you can see them leaning and leaning in. And then at the end of it, I say to them, do you know the reason you are leaning in and wanting to know, because I was being vulnerable. I was opening myself to you, which is human. And because all of us go through a lot of trouble and pressures in this life, you weren't able to identify with me at that human level. And that's when they get it. Actually, Vulnerability is strength. It's actually not a weakness.

Lois Wagner (16:55):

And I'm going to say, I love your analogy on getting onto the same frequency. I think that's a really good way to explain it, especially to teenagers, you know, get into the same frequency, get onto the same channel as your buddies.

Angela Karanja (17:09):

Absolutely. Or if you don't want what's happening there, move over to a different frequency and the moment you move over, they drop off your way, you know, because they are no longer there, you will meet them. Right. Absolutely. This is amazing. So, let's move on to the E.

The E Elements Of B.R.A.V.E System For Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships Include Equality/Empathy/Empowering

Lois Wagner (17:33):

All right. So yeah, I've got a couple of Es. The first one is Equality. I definitely, you know, we can talk forever on equality, but it just be simple. Treat everybody the same, regardless of their age, their gender, the intelligence just treats everybody with love and respect. It's so important. Everybody equally. Then Empathy. Empathy is really understanding and feeling how the other person is feeling, putting yourself in their shoes. So when you're in a relationship, when you start dating, how is that person feeling that goes back to emotional intelligence, it goes back to understanding the values and the boundaries and, and, and then being with them in the space with that respect to other this space. And then the third is Empowerment. How do we empower our teenagers to make the right decisions? How do we empower them to stop toxic masculinity? If they see somebody in the playground saying, or doing something nasty, or sending what we call sexting, sending bad words or pictures, or if they are teasing a girl or teasing a boyfriend for that matter, it doesn't really matter it goes both ways.

Lois Wagner (19:05):

How are we empowering people around us to act, to stop it, to disrupt that bad behaviour, disengage from that bad behaviour. So, empowering making them make a difference. Interesting. I did a workshop with some teenagers just recently, and they was all girls. It was one boy on the team, and he was, he was fantastic. And he said, when we came to be empowering, it is going to go and stop his mates from sending bad texts. And I thought, wow, that's fantastic. But what happens is he goes up to his mates and he says, don't do that. It's not right. And his mates, says stop being a sissy. He doesn't want to be a sissy and to be seen different to his friends. So, he stops helping, and what is so important that he was a leader because he was the first one to take that, that step, to see the vision, to take the action, but what leaders need is followers. So, he needs to bring one person along with him because often the followers, the rest of the followers follow the follower. They don't always follow the leader., We need a leader and then we need the first follower, who's going to make it become a habit for everybody else. So, it's so important that we encourage people when they take, when they check that first step, that we empower them to stay there and to find somebody to take along with them.

Angela Karanja (20:53):

Wow. Wow.

So how would you, for example, if a parent wants to encourage or empower their young person to, I mean, for example, the young boy that came to your workshop and, you know, they are all hyped up, they are powered and everything. So how would the parents encourage that young person to keep up the momentum, to get people, following him, to get people empowered, because as he said, you've got to get people for things to happen, for change, to happen, we've got to keep that momentum. So how would you, what would you advise to parents to do to encourage empower their young people to do that?

Lois Wagner (21:46):

Oh, there's so many things that we have to work with. It's important that we, our teenagers are bright. You know, I think back to when I was a teenager, I don't think we had the same voices for teenagers today. So, we've got to give them that voice and allow them to have that open discussion with that parents and with the peers. You know, so often parents don't allow their children to express because we weren't allowed to express. You know, I always thought children are seen and not heard. We mustn't perpetuate that. We've got, allow them to express. The other thing we need to do so importantly is educate them, give them the knowledge around violence and what toxic masculinity and how it impacts on other people. Example stories like mine, mine was a very violent story, but these many stories that are not so violent, but they're as harmful. Understand the impact and that it could be their mother, their sister, their best friend can be anybody. We really educate them as to the dangers and what this does to people long term, what it does to themselves. Because later on in their lives, they're going to have flashbacks to the ugly things that they did going to impact on them, because the memory takes all of this in, and it comes back and it'll haunt you later on, knowing that you did something unpleasant, who said something unpleasant to somebody. So, it's that education it's so important that then know the impact of the behaviour. And so, it's about getting people to share their stories,

Angela Karanja (23:40):


Lois Wagner (23:41):

It doesn't matter what the story is, and it doesn't, you know, I'm talking mostly about gender-based violence, but it could be anything. It could be just dealing with school bullying, verbal bullying, and emotional bullying and cyber bullying that can bounce back to them later in their lives. And they will, they will have regrets. And so, they need to understand the psyche and the science behind how this affects you. So, it's talking, talking, communicating, teaching, and just, and just rewarding people when they do the right thing, thanking them, showing that gratitude for having done and made the right decision or say the wrong thing.

Angela Karanja (24:30):

So, what I heard you say, which is very interesting is about it. It's something I, I speak with parents a lot about perpetuating, how we were parented, saying it's being aware and actually giving our young people that voice, that giving them a safe space to speak. As I call it, I call it if you want them to, to listen to you, you need to give them that space to speak so that can express themselves. And it's in that expressing themselves, that they gain your trust. And then you are able to teach them some of these ideas. Isn't it?

Lois Wagner (25:11):

Absolutely. It's. It all goes down to communication at the end of the day, to be vulnerable to share, to ask. A lot of people, you know, I've got a teenager in the house. Yeah. She came in the other day, very upset, a 17-year-old. And she came in very upset that the boys have got this club, I can't remember the name of it now, but they, they exclude girls who are ugly or something. They exclude them from the inner circle, and she wasn't excluded, but it broke her heart. The people around who had been excluded. And that is so harmful. And the boys don't realize they're having a bit of fun, which are the cool chicks, you know, which other, the girls we like. But they don't realize the harm they're doing to the ones that they exclude from that exercise. And so, again, it's just that, that understand whatever they do has these ramifications.

Angela Karanja (26:13):

Actually in our research, psychological research, we find that especially when it comes to bullying, because the situation that you are describing is a sort of bullying because when you exclude people, because of whatever reason, whether you think they are not cute, or they're not your colour or what, it's a form of bullying, but what we have observed over and over again is that even those who are observing those who are observing, the bullying, taking place are affected. Even some, some of them even worse than the actual young people who are being bullied. And this is why, because you are in the, in group today, you are living in fear because you don't know what tomorrow they're going to choose to exclude you because that's the nature of them to exclude people. So even though you're in a group today and that's how gangs, gangs operate.

There Is Importance In Teaching These Elements Of B.R.A.V.E System In Order To Make Progress In Eliminating Gender-Based Violence In Teen Relationships.

Angela Karanja (27:15):

So, you, even though you belong to that, cool side to say so, you, you live in fear because you don't know whether tomorrow they're going to choose those who have eyebrows that go this way, or those who have Afro hair or those who have, you know, those who have a mark on, their neck, you don't know. So, you're living in fear as well. And I can tell you, that's why that girl was affected because that's the, if some of the effects are some of the psychological and mental effects of bullying, of observing bullying, right? It's we need to be to educate people. And then another thing I just wanted to, to mention about teaching young people, this BRAVE system that you brought, brought, brought up, which I believe is it's quite powerful. It's a powerful acronym. It's, it's quite loaded. Actually. Last week I was, I was doing some research and I found, especially, for example, in the UK a charity called family lives received 85000 just during this lockdown, 85,000 calls on abused, you know, young people are abusing their parents.

Yeah. We need to know that these kids can abuse us in our own homes. That was 85,000 young people abusing their parents. And what we found as well is that there are more boys abusing their mothers, teenagers are abusing their mothers. If we don't give them opportunity to speak; what I heard you say, we need to give them back safe space to speak, to, to create that relationship with them. So, we can educate them on this, on, on having boundaries, you know, on being respectful, having those values, you know, and I, I'm looking at that agreement, you know, being vulnerable and equality and empathy and empowerment. I, this is what I think everyone can see this BRAVE. It's just, it's a very important concept for us to, to understand ourselves as parents, but also for teenagers to understand this, because the problem, even if it's not the boy or the girl, whoever. Those relationships that don't have these Boundaries, they don't have Respect. They don't have Agreement. People don't have Values and they're not Empowered end up being toxic relationships. Yeah. And I don't think any of us as parents want our kids to go through that.

Lois Wagner (30:20):

Also, in addition, we must teach them to be brave in terms of being able to stand up for others who are being bullied or hurt, to be able to go into the school yard and, and stop somebody from, from, from teasing or bullying. Yeah. Just, we had a situation one day, we, in the morning there was roses spread out on a, on a, on a sidewalk with writing in red saying, I watched you get raped last night, I was too scared to stop you to stop them and I'm sorry. And I just thought, wow, this man, or person who had witnesses just didn't, he could have called the police. You know, you don't have to, if you scare to get physically involved, you can be somebody. You don't have to just walk away as this person did. And look what happened. He walked away or she, we don't know who it was, walked away and felt so bad that they came back the next day and put roses on the ground. I said, if you don't do anything, it's harmful to your mental state as if you did it yourself. So, you must learn to stop harassment of any form.

Angela Karanja (31:40):

Absolutely! This topic is very close to my heart. And maybe in another conversation, we can talk about our personal experiences. And we can talk about these. The one thing I find with especially teenagers, when I say to them, you need to speak, you need to tell someone when you see it happening, even maybe it's not happening to you, you need to tell someone. And then they fear. And these are the exact words that I have heard over and over again. "Oh, I don't want to be a snitch. I don't want to be a snake". And I say to them, that's exactly what these bullies want you to think that they get into your head, they get into your head and they make you think that you're being a snitch. They use these words so that, so that they carry on and it's in silence that evil carries on. One of my favourite quotes was by Martin Luther.

When he said "evil, evil continues to happen because good people keep quiet and refuse to say something." So when I tell the kids that they're like, you guys are, I say to them, you guys are good guys, but I tell you what, unless you speak, unless you tell, unless you get out of that mentality, that you are a snitch, a snake, you're just as bad as the person that's doing it. Because by you refusing to speak another kid is beaten up, another kid is bullied, some kids commit suicide because of all these things, because some of these. Some of these treatments can lead teenagers to do some really atrocious things. Some of them to the point of committing suicide. Yeah. And even when they don't commit suicide, we have shells of young people. Young people laden them with so much mental health problems that they are not being as productive as they should be.

So, it is important for us to talk about this. And I'm so, so proud of the work that you're doing. I am so proud of you that I think we should have another time, because I don't think we've even scraped the surface. I want to hear those stories because it's those stories that, that you tell the stories that you've seen that are going to inspire parents. Because sometimes we talk about, I talk about statistics. Like, for example, when I said 85,000 young people abusing parent, but the thing is, when you talk about statistics, sometimes people see it as just statistics. Like when you mentioned the person, this, you make it human. And they know if it, you know, it's, it's a person, it's a living, breathing person who has been affected and that moves people's hearts. It moves people's hearts to take some sort of action. So, I am so, so excited. I, I am so, so grateful for the information that you shared. So, what I'm going to ask you, what are the two things, two lovely snippets that you can leave our viewers with today? Something that they can take away, they can take away with them. Something that they can practice today to, to help in this situation.

Lois Wagner (35:26):

Stand up and be counted, stand up and communicate. Tell your story, ask someone's story, explain how you are feeling, communicate, communicate.

Angela Karanja (35:41):

Oh brilliant! So how can people find you? Because I think it's important for people all these viewers to link up with you, because you've got some amazing information, including what I'm hearing from you. Some programs that young people can take some, some, some training that our teenagers can, we can send our teenagers to use so that you take them through this, and then they can shift their minds because that's what we are here for. So where can people find you?

Lois Wagner (36:14):

Okay. Walking Without is my web page. Walking without skin. Facebook page, by the same name, walking without skin. So that's the easiest way to find me, what I do. And I do work with schools and groups and groups of parents. If they're interested, I can do one on ones, but I think it's far more valuable when I work in it with a group and we worked through brave, I've got a basic eight-week program. They get a workbook and we get some practical applications and they come out of the brave,

Angela Karanja (37:00):

Brilliant! I want that, this, this, do you know what my vision always, because I've worked with young people for a long time. And I know what, just, when you give them ideas that change the world, young people are willing. They are actually good people and they are willing because they know there is a purpose for which they work in this world. So, let's send us kids, let's send us kids to do these programs. Let's send them. I'm so excited. Thank you, guys. I am so, so happy today and I feel absolutely blessed, and I hope that you have felt as blessed as I have. And I think we should be bringing Lois again at another time. And for today, we thank you so much for listening. And just as Lois said, stand up and be counted, communicate open up, let your young people communicate with you. And most importantly, send them, send them to these programs because our schools don't do that. Our schools don't do that. We need to send them to these programs and to these experts. And thank you so much.

Lois Wagner (38:17):

Yeah, Angela, and you're doing remarkable work to create remarkable teenagers as well then.

Angela Karanja (38:24):

And we hope we will see some time soon.

Lois Wagner (38:28):

I hope so. Thank you.

You can contact Lois Wagner

You can contact Lois Wagner

The ideas expressed in the interview are purely for advisory only and you should contact the Lois Wagner for any clarifications and further directives.

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