Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore (YWCA) have received a grant of $350,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The grant, one of only 20 such grants made nationally and the only one in Illinois, is part of a new program designed to more effectively reduce dating violence. The grant will bring together Y.O.U and the YWCA to provide “a comprehensive approach to dating violence that includes services for victims, prevention programs, partnering with schools and engaging men and boys in ending violence against women,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

“This builds on our historic partnership,” said Seth Green, Executive Director of Y.O.U. “The YWCA and Y.O.U. share a commitment to reducing violence and promoting equity in our community. For many years, we have worked together to engage youth in dialogue and activities that build healthy relationships and reduce dating violence.”

Y.O.U. will spearhead the project, called Allied Against Violence, which will deeply engage young men in Evanston as advocates in reducing sexual and domestic violence and build alliances across genders and generations to prevent domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The partnership will include mentors from Loyola Men’s Project.

Allied Against Violence will empower a group of teenage males to become spokespersons in the community for building healthy relationships and preventing violence against women. These young men will then be selected to serve as formal interns to implement public awareness campaigns that enlist their peers, families, and the broader community in standing up against violence.

“We are very excited to partner with Y.O.U. and the Loyola Men’s Project on this grant,” said Karen Singer, President/CEO of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. “Violence against women continues to be a pervasive problem affecting all our communities. If we are going to turn it around, we must engage boys and men in the conversation and work side by side to end it. This partnership is our opportunity to do that!”

Allied Against Violence brings together three organizations with expertise and resources critical to the success of the project. Y.O.U. has deep, trusting relationships with young men of color, the target population of the grant. The YWCA provides comprehensive domestic violence services to women and their children, and works in schools on building healthy relationships and universities on issues of campus dating violence. Loyola Men’s Project, which empowers men to take a stand against rape and other forms of violence in their daily lives, will provide well-trained university students as mentors for participating youth.

“This is about innovation,” added Green. “The grant ‘supports innovative prevention strategies that encourage men and boys to work as allies with women and girls to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.’ Each partner brings critical resources to the table, and we are so hopeful that this comprehensive approach will have a profound and lasting effect on the lives of young people in Evanston.”