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Safe Teen: Powerful Alternatives to Violence    by Anita Roberts order for
Safe Teen
by Anita Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Raincoast, 2001 (2001)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This book evolved from a SafeTeen program that Anita Roberts initiated in 1976 for young women, and expanded to include young men ten years later. The author shares with readers 'an assertiveness model using verbal and body language skills to communicate inner power.' There are four sections - HEART, MIND, SPIRIT and BODY, interspersed with contemporary teen scenarios that model both ineffective and successful ways of dealing with difficult situations. The BODY section includes exercises and role play techniques that help to develop recommended body language.

In HEART, the author uses the analogy of a house that is either hard or easy to break into, to explain how behaviors can decrease or increase the risk of becoming a victim. She urges us to remember 'Tough Person on the outside = Tiny Person on the inside' and tells us that though we cannot change our basic physical characteristics, we can decrease our vulnerability by becoming 'hard houses', and using our 'Wise Woman' and 'Solid Guy' personas. Roberts reminds us that over 75% of communication is done through body language. She explains why the advice 'just walk away' is not helpful to adolescent males, and talks about how to deal with fear. Real-life scenarios make suggested techniques and their results very clear.

The section on MIND looks at issues of gender and power. Roberts talks about boundaries in relationships. She tells us what makes a healthy one - respect, listen, take responsibility for your own needs, accept a partner's limits - and signs of one that is unhealthy. She discusses verbal violence, sexual harrassment and sexual assault, which she calls a 'crime of power'. She advises assuming a 'no' when a partner's messages seem mixed, and discusses how to deal with disclosure of abuse. In SPIRIT, the author addresses female desire, and female objectification. She speaks of the 'code of manhood' that creates expectations of young men, and presents a 'Bill of Rights for Men' starting with the right to express feelings and show fears.

Safe Teen impressed me as an excellent guide to teach young men and women how to access their inner strength, their Wise Woman or Solid Guy, and to maintain high self-esteem. I find the scenarios and role plays especially useful, both in communicating the ideas and as exercises to build skills. This book merits a wide circulation, both to individuals and in schools.

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