about Respect Rx

RESPECT co-author, Courtney Macavinta, blogs for girls and women about how to build your self-respect and spread respect for all! At The Respect Institute she teaches people of all ages how to integrate The Respect Basics into their lives, work and advocacy. More about About Courtney

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The Respect Institute

What if every person knew he or she was valuable and worthy of respect? What if they treated others how they wanted to be treated? When people have respect on the inside, they can thrive vs. getting trapped in cycles of disrespect including violence, abuse, inequality, poverty, poor health, unhealthy relationships, inadequate education and low self-esteem.

This is our vision: to create a ripple effect of respect throughout the world.

Respect Rx's programs, workshops and speaking engagements are now delivered by the newly formed organization: The Respect Institute. Programs and tools are available for all youth, families, educators/advocates and communities. Visit the website to learn more! RespectRx.com is now the home of my blog -- get our feed or follow me...

Abuse + Harm + Violence

D.C. Dispatch: Domestic Violence Awareness Month & VAWA

It's a cliche but I've had a full circle moment. I've gone from a girl who saw her mom being beaten, saw her father being arrested, and who couldn't sleep with the lights off until a few years ago...to being the mother of a son who lives in a safe, healthy household with a father who protects him to being invited to be in a room full of change agents who are working daily to end violence.

Yesterday I was honored to be a part of the very hard-working crowd at the White House event commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Vice President Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and President Obama both spoke in detail about what they (and their partners) are doing to end violence against women.

The hard truth: One-in-every-four women experiences domestic violence during their lifetimes and more than 20 million women in the U.S. have been victims of rape.


Advocates, Programs, Special Events, Teachers

Respect Rally

275 million children worldwide witness domestic violence every year (UNICEF). While 1 in 5 teens in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner (LoveIsRespect.org).
Half of teens admit to bullying someone in the past year (Josephson Institute of Ethics).
8.8 million children in the U.S. witness a crime in their home each year. (DOJ, 1997).
1 in 3 teens drop out of high school (EDE Research Center).
Teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young adults (Centers for Disease Control).

Does this sound like thriving to you?

Our programs are designed to empower youth, families and community members with The Respect Basics to reverse all of these negative trends and to lead us toward a better world.

The Respect Rally is a half-day summit or assembly where middle school, high school, college students or just girls learn to boost their self-respect, improve relationships and become leaders of change.

The Rally is now delivered by the new organization: The Respect Institute!

Abuse + Harm + Violence

Oprah's Most Important Show: Male Survivors of Abuse

Oprah's two-part show featuring male survivors of sexual abuse, to me, is her most important work ever. 1 in 6 males *report* that they've been sexually abused. We know not all are able to come forward—or survive. (Show 1) and (Show 2).

I know more men than not who were sexually abused. I think because of the nature of my work, I've been honored to hear their truths. And most of these men have not healed. Some have died, in my opinion, as collateral damage (from addictions mostly). Others are alive but the innocent boy in them is dead. So they can't get close to people or thrive.

At least one got direct help and his life is powerful and full of love—especially for himself. The thought of my son ever being violated is not a dark place I can dip my feet.

I think these shows are living proof of how the road back to respect starts when you Tell Your Truth. And then I hope the next Respect Basic you tap into, especially we survivors of abuse, is Get Help.

• Help for boys and men

• Help for girls and women—and all people

Courtney's Blog

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Bullying + Sexual Harassment

Bullycide Prevention: 3 Steps for Parents

"Bullycides" Prevention: 3 Ways Parents Can Spread Respect from Respect Rx on Vimeo.

The wave of shocking suicides by young adults, teens and tweens, who were allegedly being bullied and sexual harassed, have many parents, schools and communities reeling about how to stop the tide.

When a rash of troubling behavior—and tragic outcomes—like this hits, it's natural for parents, role models and youth alike to feel outraged or even powerless.

Yet the search for solutions can't be boiled down to passing new legislation or blaming everything from schools to technology. A radical shift in cultural norms needs to happen for long-term change to take hold here. Otherwise, we will forever be stuck with many disrespectful norms instead—from intolerance to bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, violence, cliques (among teens and adults), the "-isms," homophobia and hating ourselves or others.

We all pay the price for not practicing a new normal: respect for all.

We can choose to change
I thought I wanted to make respect the new status quo before. As a new mom, now I’m beyond impatient. More than 15 of my friends and acquaintances had babies this year. My 8-month-old sweet boy was born on Valentines Day. I won’t "accept" these disrespectful norms for these babies. I won’t forget the young ones who took their lives after being pushed too far.

All of us deserve better. We all deserve to learn *how* to be compassionate with ourselves and others. To live as equals. To be safe. To be ourselves and have our rights protected by one another. To be respected and pass it on.

If this is too lofty of a goal for you right now, I want you to think bigger.

I had the honor last weekend to meet two peace and nonviolence activists who had to think bigger to change our world. And they’re still doing it.

Father John Dear was nominated by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the Nobel Peace Prize. Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette co-founded the groundbreaking Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and worked side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the Carry the Vision conference in my community, Dr. Lafayette told the youth and adults there: “Fear can cause you to disrespect yourself.” Yet we have a choice both leaders reminded us. The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence. It’s nonviolence or nonexistence.

It’s heart-wrenching to think about the young people who chose this year alone to no longer exist amid violence. Phoebe Prince, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, and now Tyler Clementi. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youths age 10 to 17. So there are likely others in which no one made the connection between being harassed, bullied or persecuted and their suicides. And let’s not forget the alleged "bullies" in all these cases (whether identified or not) represent a loss too. Lost self-respect and lost potential.

3 steps for parents and role models
Here's how to stay hopeful. There is a unifying social change goal we can call get behind. Even if disrespect has dragged us down or led us astray, I believe we all want respect for ourselves and others. And so we must all take steps to make this our default setting.

Parents and youth advocates: let’s start with ourselves by rallying for respect and practicing three key Respect Basics in our homes and communities.

We all need to set boundaries and speak up to end disrespect. Go for zero tolerance and no bystanding. From the Internet to the dinner table, make your boundaries clear for respectful language and behavior under your roof. And think of a creative consequence when the line is crossed, like having your child volunteer with an organization that is fighting for equality or against hate crimes.

Look at your boundaries too. If this means you stop cussing, gossiping or putting down others in front of your kids—good start. If it means you actively say “no” when you see people being bullied or discriminated against—yes! Coach your kids or students how to safely and assertively set boundaries if they are being hurt or see someone else getting hurt.

At the heart of these so-called bullycides is a major muscle that is underdeveloped: compassion. We need to develop compassionate habits in our hearts and homes. One way to start is by learning the Respect Levels of Listening. The first one is: It’s about ME. Guess what, we get to listen to our guts and set boundaries/be kind where needed. The second level is: It’s about UnderStanding (or "us"). The key here is getting curious about others who are different from us or who have different perspectives. Or just really listening (as if you could repeat what’s said word for word) when someone is sharing about themselves.

compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

How to have compassion for ourselves is another skill we need to master. It's not easy, I know. I also can't know what was in Tyler Clementi’s heart when he took that leap. But somewhere in there, I’m guessing, was a sense of being unloved or unaccepted or unworthy. To have compassion for ourselves enables us to have compassion for others (and it works well the other way around too). Compassion can prompt us to take the next step when we are devastated by disrespect or we see someone else being harmed: Get Help.

At a minimum, we can show our kids and the youth we support ways to be resourceful. They need to learn the value of getting help and what it looks like. For example, getting help can be talking to a trusted adult, calling an anonymous helpline, finding a support group, or if you need to, calling the cops! Ask your kids of all ages tonight: If you were being hurt, what are some ways you’d get help? And then brainstorm to make their list nice and long. You might not be on it. Don’t take it personal. The goal is for them to have many, many lifelines in their pocket.

If one of the Rutgers students accused of posting online video of Tyler had been operating from compassion, had set a boundary "no, stop, this isn't right," and had gotten help intervening from the dorm RA (for example), maybe we'd have a different outcome here.

Getting help needs to be the new normal vs. a risky move. And when our youth ask for help, we need to throw them a rope instantly and not let go. The worst thing that can happen when you ask for help (and I’ve been there) is to be left hanging. Part of this “getting help” skill we need to model is the resolve to never stop trying to keep get help when you need it. Our kids need to get the message that until they find a refuge and chance to recover, they are well worth the effort to keep trying.

And we need to create more refuges from disrespect. Is your home and heart one? If not, you now know right where to begin.

Advocates, Kit, Parents, Programs, Teachers

Respect Program for Teens: Leader's Guide!

Here is the status quo:

• 1 in every 2 females worldwide has been abused during her lifetime.
• 50% of teens in serious relationships say they've gone against their beliefs to please their partner, including going further sexually than they wanted.
• 1 in 5 teens who’ve been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
• 3 out of 10 teen girls become pregnant.
• 1 in 3 students drop out of high school.
• 4 in 10 teen boys have a criminal record.

We believe respect is the remedy. When teens’ self-respect—and respect for others—is going strong, anything is possible. They make healthier choices, create respectful relationships, achieve their goals and become leaders who spread respect for all. To make respect the new status quo, we created the Respect: Keep It Going! Kit -- a program for middle school and high school students. Advocates can use the Kit to partner with teens to lead a respect-building program for 6 to 18 weeks.


Respect: Keep It Going! Kit is now delivered by the new Respect Institute!

Special Events

Now booking 2011 Rallies and Keynotes!

Respect Rally
To explore having a Respect Rally for teens, check out our program page or email events@respectrx.com.

And I have a series of new interactive keynotes about respect for teens, parents and youth organizations. Contact the American Program Bureau to book your program! Speaker topics from APB's website:

Respect Connect: Find out how Respect is connected to everything: your feelings about yourself, your choices, your relationships and your future. In this inspiring keynote presentation, teens learn how to connect self-respect to their choices today—and their future.

Respect in Relationships: What makes a relationship respectful? And when can you tell if disrespect has taken over? In this keynote presentation, Macavinta addresses how to use the Respect Basics to make sure respect is a basic in all your relationships: family, friends, and with boyfriends/girlfriends.

Spread Respect: What is the change you want to be and see? In this keynote speech, teens are inspired to spread respect. They hear stories and watch video clips about disrespect going on in the world that negatively affects us all. Then they explore their own plan to make a difference and their voices heard.

Body Respect: A big part of self-respect is respecting your body too. In this keynote presentation, Macavinta brings to light the forces that can often make a girl disconnect and disrespect from her body or even hate her body (and the person who lives there). With eye-opening discussion, girls will walk away with the ability to make healthier choices, and more importantly, how to respect themselves.

The New Popular: Respect: It’s time for a respect revolution — no overthrow necessary! In this innovative keynote, girls learn to work together to create a sense of sisterhood at school and in the world at large. Macavinta addresses the roots of issues like name-calling, rumors, and sexual harassment so that girls know how to deal in the face of disrespect. Girls also get the tools to rise above drama and transform friends into foes—and most importantly, become their own best friends.

How to be a Respect Role Model: Learn how to model the Respect Basics for your kids, and how to reap the benefits along the way. From setting more boundaries to trusting your gut to the Respect Levels of Listening, discover how to make sure respect is a basic in your family—and beyond.

Melissa Abrahams
The American Program Bureau
(800) 225-4575 ext. 1621