In recent years, experts in school crime and violence have begun to pay more attention to bullying and have focused on the unique forms it may take. In addition to cyberbullying, focus has been directed toward girl-on-girl bullying. In contrast to the traditional forms of bullying more often perpetrated by boys against boys, girls may use more subtle forms, including gossip, spreading of rumors, and exclusion. Experts call this approach “relational aggression.” The Ophelia Project, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, is an organization that serves youth and adults who have been affected by relational aggression. Using the latest and best research on the topic, and headed by Dr. Charisse Nixon, author of Girl Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying, group members devise tools and strategies to assist those who have been victimized. They also help prevent relational aggression through training, conferences, consultation, and curricula. Most of these materials are available on Ophelia Project’s website (http://www.opheliaproject.org/).
The Ophelia Project’s curriculum for girls, “It Has a Name: Relational Aggression,” is available for five age levels, from kindergarten through high school. It describes what relational aggression is, addresses cyberbullying, and seeks to help girls develop prosocial norms. Curricula are also available for parents, for mentors, and for college students, and specific prevention curricula have been developed for young girls. Parents can download basic communication tips, as well as access links to additional information on bullying, empowering girls, and much more.
For teachers, the Ophelia Project offers articles and activities that can be downloaded for free as well as additional web links. A number of downloadable items for teens and links for more information are available as well. Finally, the website provides links and downloadable resources related to community action. Multimedia packages are available for purchase, too. School districts can purchase assessment tools designed to assist them in creating a safe school climate (CASS: Creating a Safe School). One evaluation of the CASS program found it to have reduced relational aggression by 23% in girls and 10% in boys.
The Ophelia Project has also partnered with Penn State–Erie to create the Ophelia Institute, which is still in development. When complete, it will conduct research, develop and disseminate educational materials (including web-based instructional tools), and provide workshops and training for educators and parents.
Testimonials credit the Ophelia Project with providing the appropriate language with which to discuss relational aggression with youth, and with identifying the importance of bystanders. Commenters have also highlighted the assistance available through the informative and interactive workshops. Many educators indicate that training from the Ophelia Project has helped them transform their classrooms and even their schools into safer places for students.
- Ophelia Project: http://www.opheliaproject.org/
- Simmons, R. (2002). Odd girl out: The hidden culture of aggression in girls. New York: Houghton Mifflin.