We are thrilled to have Rebecca Mather continue her outstanding work at JFS as the new Outreach and Prevention Coordinator with Project DVORA! We spoke with Rebecca about what she looks forward to in her new role, introducing the innovative healthy relationship workshops for teens, and what she likes to do in her free time. Join us in welcoming Rebecca in her new role!
You recently transitioned from Volunteer Services Coordinator in JFS Community Connections to your new position as Outreach and Prevention Coordinator with Project DVORA. Can you explain what this new role entails?
The heart of this role is bringing resources and tools about intimate partner violence (IPV) to the Seattle Jewish community. I’m connecting with leaders in the Jewish community to ensure they know about Project DVORA and the ways we can support survivors. IPV prevention, outreach, and education might look like a DV-101 workshop for a synagogue’s staff and board, a one-off workshop or an ongoing series of workshops for youth, a program that ties the themes of a Jewish ritual or holiday to IPV prevention, or working with a synagogue or community center to develop policies and procedures to support survivors in their communities.
What aspects of your new role are you most excited about and looking forward to?
One of the benefits of my role being new at JFS is the space to experiment. My professional and academic backgrounds are in gender studies, community organizing, and Jewish social justice youth work, so it’s exciting for me that this position is really a marriage of all my interests and expertise. Creating a new program means there’s a lot of space to glean the needs and interests of all our community partners and provide resources that are collaborative and relevant. In early December, I facilitated a workshop for JConnect connecting embodied consent to an embodied Havdalah practice. I will also be co-facilitating a multigenerational program at Temple B’nai Torah connecting gender expression and play to Purim. I’m excited to continue working with partners to build creative, interesting tools for violence prevention in their communities.
How do you define intimate partner violence prevention in the context of your work?
Intimate partner violence describes abuse within current or former intimate partnerships. Abuse is a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain power over and control over another and can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, mental, or financial. Because intimate partner violence is about power and control, our prevention programming focuses on power as well. Systems of power and oppression like patriarchy create conditions where violence and abuse are seen as normal or inevitable. Prevention work is about recognizing and addressing those root causes of violence and building skills for healthy, respectful relationships.
In the context of my work, prevention can look like making sure clergy, educators, parents, and youth recognize warning signs of abuse. It can look like providing both youth and adults with age-appropriate tools for practicing boundaries and consent. It can look like exploring and interrupting gender and racial stereotypes. It can also look like practicing healthy and respectful communication.
Can you provide more details about the innovative healthy relationship workshops for teenagers introduced by Project DVORA?
Yes! We’re providing one-off or ongoing teen healthy relationship workshops for Jewish organizations, schools, and synagogues. We’re using the Expect Respect curriculum as a baseline and I’m infusing additional activities and Jewish frameworks into the programming. The customizable workshops can include topics like exploring our identities, privilege and power, disrupting gender stereotypes, healthy relationships, boundaries and consent, recognizing and preventing sexual harassment and assault, tools for advocacy, and more.
What types of activities do you do in the healthy relationship workshops?
The goal is for these workshops to be as relevant and interactive as possible. During a given week, we’ll introduce a new topic, discuss its relevance in our lives, learn new terms, connect it to a Jewish theme, and do at least one hands-on activity.
Some examples of activities we’ve done in these workshops are creating our own gender boxes where youth decorate the outside of a small box with stereotypes and assumptions about their gender and place art or phrases depicting how they really see themselves inside of the boxes. We’ve practiced setting boundaries and asking for consent using a high-five game. Middle school youth created their own “Anti-Violence Golems” to explore what it means to be an ally against bullying.
Given that one in three teens experiences dating violence, what strategies do you believe are effective in combating this issue?
As adults, we can create spaces for the teens in our lives to talk openly about their relationships. Workshops like the ones offered through JFS are a great way to begin or continue these conversations and are complemented when teens have safe adults in their lives.
We can talk to the teens we know about what makes them feel loved and safe in their relationships. We can model what it looks like to set and respect boundaries through our relationships with teens. We can also make sure that they know some of the people and organizations they can turn to if they do experience abuse. Survivors of all ages, including teens, are most likely to disclose abuse to friends and family–so one of the best things that we can do for teens is to be safe, trustworthy adults in their lives.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, what actions can we take to bring attention to this important occasion?
Teens spend a lot of their days being talked at so one of the best things we can do in February (and every month!) is to be in dialogue with young people about their relationships and to create space for them to lead those conversations (the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence is holding a webinar on this very topic on February 22!).
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I like to spend my spring through fall hiking and camping (I grew up in the Midwest and am not sure I’ll ever stop being amazed by mountains and the ocean). I’ve tried to lean into the long nights in the winter and spend my free time baking, reading, playing board/video games, and snuggling with my cat, Mordy.