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Real Stories Being Taught

Jun 28, 2023

Today’s blog post looks at male students’ opinions on the use of fictional characters in educational courses on topics such as consent.

Note: pseudonyms have been used.

There was a unanimous agreement between male postgraduates that universities should teach real stories when educating students about sexual violence, harassment, and abuse on campus instead of using fictional cartoon characters. David feels the “blank characters” frequently used in educational courses are not personal enough to build empathy for and can prevent students from taking this issue seriously by potentially undermining the realness of it.

This is interesting because Asfar, T. et al. (2022) recently conducted a study where smokers and non-smokers were interviewed to determine which health warnings got individuals to recognise the potential harms of smoking the best. Graphic and true stories of smoking harms was found to be the most effective method whilst abstract warnings were found to be the least, suggesting that true stories can make people take issues more seriously (Asfar, et al., 2022). This is significant because whether we are delivering a workshop or one of our training courses (e.g., first-responder training), our prevention workers reference true stories to best demonstrate the points we are making.

“When doing workshops with young people in schools, I find it useful to include real life examples. This can be either through telling a story about a previous experience that another young person has had, or when giving a scenario using background information (such as name, age, experiences). I feel when young people have context behind what they are learning, they can see themselves or their friends in the scenarios. I’ve found this definitely brings more empathy in their discussions and a greater connection to the subject matter – they are able to put themselves in those situations much more easily.” – Prevention Worker for Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde

We also use many different examples in our workshops and training to increase awareness of what can come under the umbrella ‘gender-based violence’. Our amazing Rosey Project Community (RPC) – a group of young advocacy volunteers – touched upon how the media define and discuss gender-based violence in their recent ‘Reassess the Press’ exhibition, launched in May 2023. Their press coverage analysis found bias and stereotyping in reporting.

Working in collaboration with Zoe Stromberg, the RPC group created the above image to demonstrate how there is often a misconception of ‘who’ is a victim of gender-based violence.

Working in collaboration with Zoe Stromberg, the RPC group created the above image to demonstrate how there is often a misconception of ‘who’ is a victim of gender-based violence.

“Victims rarely fit into society’s ‘shoe’ of the perfect victim. This is a visual representation that victims come in all shapes and sizes. Whether that be social background, age, ethnicity, etc.” – RPC group

Overall, then, research finds there to be a misunderstanding of what comes under the umbrella ‘gender-based violence’ and who can be a victim. This thus highlights the importance of us using real and varied life examples of gender-based violence within our workshops and training sessions.

If you’d like to know more about our workshops, call our centre on 0141 552 3201 and ask for the Rosey project or email us at:

Asfar, T., Chehab, S., Schmidt, M., Ward, K. D., Maziak, W. & Nakkash, R. (2022) ‘‘Scary and effective, definitely pushes me to quit smoking’: Developing waterpipe pictorial health warnings targeting young adults in Lebanon’, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 24(9), pp. 1458- 1468. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac053.