Taking care of your group

There are many excellent, helpful ideas in the Canadian “White Ribbon Campaign in a Box” resources which are available at www.whiteribbon.ca and the Australian White Ribbon Day school kit in the Resources section at www.whiteribbon.org.au.  The ideas below reflect some the helpful resources they have for group leaders and we thank White Ribbon Canada for permission to use and adapt their material to Australian circumstances:

Your role as a discussion leader

Talking about violence against women and respectful equal relationships can be difficult.

As an estimated quarter of children and young people have witnessed violence in the home (1 [AIC]), the chances are that this issue will have touched some of the boys in your group. There is also the possibility that one or some have been physically or sexually abused. For these reasons, the teacher organising an activity about this topic has a particularly important role in helping to create a safe environment.

Safety and ground rules:

Help the participants develop guidelines for a safe group:

Respect is important

  • model it
  • people listen to each othe in respectful discussions
  • time is shared and no-one is allowed to dominate the discussion
  • everyone is encouraged to participate but no-one is forced to speak or is put on the spot

Privacy is important

  • discuss the importance of confidentiality
  • at the same time it is important to very clearly discourage the boys from telling very personal information to the group
  • encourage the boys to discuss after the session with a teacher or counsellor any personal experiences of sexual abuse or family violence

More detail about how to protect the privacy of the boys is included in the Disclosures section below and we encourage you to consider these issues very carefully

Ground Rules for Discussion

These discussion ideas are based closely on those offered by the Canadian White Ribbon Campaign in a Box program, (Appendix A).  There are specific tips for teachers on how to encourage positive dialogue and deal with difficult and hostile questions (pages 18-20).


Listen. Share time. Respect others’ opinion. Respect and listen to what others have to say, how they say it and the experiences they bring to the group. Ask yourself if the way you are speaking or acting towards this person is the way you would like to be treated.

Non-judgemental. There is a great deal of diversity and knowledge in the group. The only way to learn about each other is through open, non-judgemental and peaceful communication. Only one person can speak at a time.

No put-downs. Discussion and debate are good but hurtful words are not. Words that put-down or hurt a person or group stop us from learning about each other. You can disagree with someone without name-calling or insults. You can start your sentence with “I”. E.g. “I don’t agree” …or, “I think that”.

Respect confidentiality. If you want to tell the class something that is not to be said to anyone outside the group, say so before you speak.

Respect the ground rules. You are an equal, valuable member of this group. Raise your hand immediately if you think the ground rules have been broken.

Outside class, find someone to talk to. Learning about violence can remind us of violence that we or someone we know has experienced. If you or someone you know has suffered violence, please talk to a friend, teacher or adult who you trust so you can get the support you need. If you still don’t get the support you need, tell another person. It isn’t your fault.


Protecting children against abuse is the shared responsibility of us all. Everyone working with children has a duty of care to them. Schools have a particular responsibility in the prevention and reporting of child abuse and neglect. Your school will have procedures for responding to violence. For example, in Victoria the Child Protection Service at the Department of Human Services or the police must be notified of any instance of possible or known child abuse. Each Australian state will have expectations regarding the responsibilities of adults who have children in their care.

If you have concerns about a child notify the appropriate authorities. Contact details are provided for Australian state child protection services in Support Services.

In the sessions boys could express strong and very personal feelings. For this reason it is important to stress the importance of group confidentiality and to suggest to the boys in your care to disclose only as much as they are comfortable with saying to the others. If a youth says he wants to tell you something but asks you to promise not to tell anyone, you cannot do this. You need to be clear with the participants that you have a legal requirement to report ongoing abuse.

Protective Techniques

Brook Friedman’s “Boys-Talk” manual outlines good strategies for keeping participants safe. "Personal disclosure about experiences that involve danger, a lack of safety or sensitive personal information is deliberately avoided in the classroom or group and the individual is offered further support outside the group. This is to protect participants and group leaders from the consequences of inappropriate disclosure such as:

  •  the spreading of gossip and rumours about the person;
  •  harassment or victimisation of the person;disrespectful responses from group members;
  •  inadequate or non-response from group leaders; feelings of regret about sharing sensitive personal information." (p44)

Friedman has worked extensively with groups of boys and says: 

"If a person starts to talk about violence in his life or about sensitive personal information, we will interrupt his story and tell him that it is more appropriate to hear his experience with more privacy. This is to protect his privacy and to give him the opportunity to share more appropriately in a private meeting. School staff and youth workers by law must report participants' experiences of ongoing violence or abuse in order to start intervention to end the violence. This is to protect participants from violence. The adults/school staff in this group will describe what is available in the school and the community and will arrange follow-up for participants who disclose they are in danger." (p63)

He suggests using:

protective interrupting to stop someone from self-disclosing in a context that would increase his victimisation.You could say, for example, “What you are saying is very important. Because it is so important, we need to think carefully about who you want to tell this to. You and I can work out in a private meeting who would be the best person for you to speak to about this."

"‘One step removed is a process where youth are encouraged to describe life situations in the third person without disclosing any personal information.For example, What could someone do if…? What if a friend told someone…? Suppose a person…?" (p44)

These techniques are safe practice ways to help the boys gain information, share feelings and observe attitudes.

If a student discloses abuse it is important that you support him by listening very carefully, showing that you believe him and do not blame him in any way, neither minimising nor ignoring the abuse, offering practical support to find a professional support worker, and checking he is safe from on-going abuse. It takes a lot of courage to report abuse and this should be acknowledged.

(2 [information about strategies for protecting participants from Friedman])




1.  Indermaur, D. (2001). Young Australians and domestic violence. Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, p.1.

2. Friedman, B. Boys Talk manual, based on 'Boys Talk: A program for young men about masculinity non-violence and relationships'.