GirlStrength is a holistic approach to violence prevention. It is a free trauma-informed equity based program designed for young people who identify as female, or whose gender expression is female, fluid or nonconforming. Developmentally, the program and camps are designed for youth ages 10-14. We also offer one- time workshops for students 10-17 years of age.
GirlStrength is the sister program of the Portland Police Bureau's WomenStrength program and shares the same philosophy that has been so important in the program's 37 year success. WomenStrength offers free self-defense classes for women and teens as well as coed safety workshops for adults.
GirlStrength is a social justice violence prevention program. We understand that the root cause of sexual or gendered violence is oppression. Oppression occurs when there is unequal access to resources making marginalized or underrepresented communities more vulnerable to violence. The program addresses the entire continuum of gendered violence from sexism to sexual harassment or unwanted attention, to coercing someone into sex, sexual assault and rape. We believe everyone plays a role in ending violence in our society, but the only person who can truly prevent sexual violence from occurring is the perpetrator. We remind students that violence is a choice.
All instructors complete over 120 hours of trauma-informed violence prevention training. Each instructor completes a rigorous application process which includes a written component, background and reference checks and panel interview. Instructors come from a wide range of backgrounds including teachers, counsellors, students, mothers and more, but overall instructors are passionate about ending gendered violence. All instructors are trained to work with survivors of violence and are mandatory reporters. Their primary mission in the classroom is to build a cultural climate of trust and support so that learning is fun and safe for every student. Become an instructor
All classes are trauma-informed and emotionally safe for survivors of violence. The curriculum can be taught over 9 or 18 sessions depending on the needs of the organization. School sessions are usually 45-90 minutes in length. Each session includes: a group check-in, warm-up or icebreaker activity, review, 1-2 main topics and a closing activity. Sessions are engaging and highly interactive providing opportunities for students to work together in groups to explore ideas, beliefs and their experiences related to equity and oppression, power dynamics, and violence prevention strategies. Each session builds upon the previous one session and intentionally creates emotional safety and trust for risk taking and learning to occur.
The curriculum includes best teaching practices and is designed to meet the needs of all learners. The teaching strategies embedded in the curriculum include drama and theatre activities; media, props and visual aids, journal writing and reflection activities; large and small group discussions with an emphasis on experiential learning.
The curriculum complies with the Healthy Teen Relationship Act (House Bill 4077) and Erin's Law: Child Abuse Prevention (Senate Bill 856).
The curriculum has been evaluated and used successfully with pre-teens and teens in the Portland metro area since 2008. Every year it is updated to reflect the ever changing needs of our communities. Request a program for your school or organization!
- The role of confidence and self-esteem in staying safe
- The power of using and trusting our intuition
- Equity and gender stereotypes
- Assertive Communication
- Setting boundaries and limits
- Healthy and Unhealthy communication and relationships
- Affirmative consent
- The importance of emotional healing and self-care after trauma
- Child Abuse
- Bullying behaviors
- Sexual violence (dating, domestic and intimate partner violence, trafficking or sexual exploitation)
- Physical and non-physical self-defense skills
- Safety planning
- Street smarts and escape options
- Myths and facts around gendered violence and child abuse
Weeklong Summer Camps
Over the summer, GirlStrength provides free weeklong camps (3 hours a day) for youth within the Portland Metro area. Registration for Camps is handled by Parks and Recreation or the organization requesting the camp. Almost all of the above information about the program, including the instructors, curriculum and topics apply to the design and implementation of the camps. Find a camp near you!
One-time Workshops for Middle and High School Students
Workshops are free and offered to any organization in the Portland metro area. For workshops not open to the general public, we recommend a one-time donation that supports the training, recruitment and appreciation of our volunteers. Go to our donation page to learn more.
Workshop sessions are usually 90 minutes but can be as long as three hours. Generally they cover street smarts and assertiveness but can be designed to meet the specific needs of the organization. Workshops serve students 10-17 years of age. Request a workshop!