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Conflict is inevitable in young people's lives, but practitioners can empower young people to understand and manage it, says Nik Pitcher, Senior Trainer at Leap Confronting Conflict and the organisation's lead for the Young People's Programme.

Here, Nik gives some advice to help practitioners engage young women affected by gang-related abuse.

  • Help young women to understand risk. When supporting young women, it is important to first understand what they feel they are gaining from a gang relationship. You will also support them by helping to define what abuse means, and what the potential risks of being associated with a gang member are. Help them understand how to make informed choices to reduce risk.
  • Build resilience and strength. Our research suggests just one positive, non-abusive relationship in which a young woman's authenticity, life experience, skill, ability and achievements are affirmed can significantly increase self-esteem and self-efficacy. That one person could be you.
  • Address multiple factors. A comprehensive and holistic service is needed to address the issues of immediate safety, physical, emotional, sexual and mental health, parenting, drug and alcohol awareness, education and employment. You can also help young women by providing space to affirm self-image and build confidence and esteem.
  • Provide trusted support. Tackling negative relationships needs to happen on two levels: by establishing trustworthy and supportive relationships between you and the young women you work with, and by supporting young women to reflect on their current and previous experiences. It is particularly important to offer a female-only space to talk about and tackle the difficult challenges of rape and sexual exploitation.
  • Engage with immediate family. Girls and young women who are siblings of young people actively involved in gang activity cannot be forgotten. They are relatively easy to identify and they need targeted support to help them deal with their situation.

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This content originally appeared in our newsletter in January 2014 and reflected our views at the time.