When RESPECT first began, many people didn’t think bullying or teen dating violence was a problem – at least, not here in Nebraska. Now, more than 18 years later, it is clear that both are serious problems, but fortunately they are problems that come with solutions.
For nearly two decades RESPECT has helped give children, teens, college students and adults throughout Nebraska and Iowa the skills they need to prevent and to stop bullying and other forms of abuse in relationships. Through the use of interactive educational theatre programs specifically developed to convey the information, skills, practice and resources our audiences need to help themselves and help their peers, we enhance our participants’ abilities to be safe and healthy in a wide array of challenging relationships and situations. While we use theatre, we do not teach it as an art, but rather as a tool for problem-solving, communication and ways to practice solutions. We work collaboratively with many organizations on our Community Advisory Committee to ensure we are effectively meeting the needs of our whole community. As the only organization of its kind in Nebraska, RESPECT has provided more than 3,500 programs to over a half-million participants since its inception.
RESPECT’s programs cover the prevention of abusive relationship dynamics found in bullying, child abuse, dating/intimate partner violence, relational aggression, cyber bullying and sexual harassment through observing interactions on stage. Participants not only learn through the work of our professional actor-educators but also as their peers engage and “try out” different solutions to problems on stage. They have the opportunity to develop empathy for others, to understand that they are not alone in experiencing these problems and to explore, experience and collect several different behavioral strategies and resources that they can use for support. Year after year, data from our program evaluations demonstrate that RESPECT’s programs and educational theatre techniques are effective ways of empowering students to deal with bullying and abusive relationships and in turn, they express feeling better about themselves and going to school.