February is arguably one of the most romantic months of the year, but happy, healthy relationships aren’t the only thing people are talking about. February marks the start of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), a national effort to raise awareness about dating violence in teen relationships.
Teen dating violence is an issue that affects 1.4 million high school students each year, yet only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship told anyone about the abuse.
One Love, the national leader in teaching young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, believes that when teens understand the signs of an unhealthy relationship, they can protect themselves and the people they care about. To promote awareness about this widespread issue, One Love and WITH US are partnering to highlight 6 effective ways for young people to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence.
It’s no secret that teen dating violence is a huge issue that impacts millions of young people each year. Here are 6 ways to take action:
Approach your partner with kindness, empathy and respect and expect the same in return. Establishing mutual respect with your partner is simple. Avoid demeaning your partner or addressing them in a rude or sarcastic manner. In healthy relationships, you value your partner’s beliefs, opinions and who they are as a person. This can be as simple as taking an interest in their life or asking their opinion before making a decision that impacts both of you, like where you decide to go for a date. Remember that mutual respect is a critical part of any relationship, not just one with a romantic partner. If a partner or friend treats you well 95% of the time but mistreats you 5% of the time, that’s not good enough. Do not stay in a relationship or friendship where you count on someone to change their behavior.
Some relationships are filled with drama, but did you know that this could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship? Whether it’s isolation or volatility, learning about unhealthy behaviors enables you to identify them in your relationship with a partner or friend. This in turn allows you to better protect yourself and the people you care about. One Love’s Escalation Workshop and #ThatsNotLove Workshops are designed to teach young people the gray area between love and control. Learn more about One Love workshops here.
Social media is a huge part of our lives and that likely won’t change in the years to come. Research shows that young people are ditching in-person communication for devices, relying heavily on social media to connect with others and share their lives.
Since social media influences the way people perceive relationships, young people may feel an innate pressure to post only content that makes them, and their relationship look good. Because of this, teens may be hesitant to leave an unhealthy relationship, preferring to uphold their image on social media. Leaving an unhealthy relationship is hard, and no one should feel added pressure to endure mistreatment because you’re afraid to let people down. Remember, leaving an unhealthy partner is not a failure. And when we’re honest about the imperfections in our relationships we give others permission to do the same.
If you or someone you know is concerned about a friend in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, the most important thing you can do is start a conversation. While it’s natural to worry about what to say, how to say it and when, talking to your friend can in fact save them from a dangerous relationship. At One Love, we recommend starting the conversation with an affirmative statement like, “You’re always so fun to be around. I’ve missed you.” Once your friend feels comfortable, you can begin calmly voicing your concern. Your friend may not be forthcoming the first time you speak with them about their relationship and that’s okay. There are multiple reasons why someone might not talk about their unhealthy relationship, or even acknowledge it as so. Ultimately, you don’t need your friend to admit they are in an unhealthy relationship.
Your role as a friend is to let them know you care and are available to help whenever they need to talk. If your friend is in immediate danger, you should alert authorities (i.e., a school counselor or 911) right away. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is post breakup. If your friend is planning to break up with their partner reach out to a domestic violence advocate to create a safety plan. Learn more tips about how to help a friend here.
The best way to promote healthy relationships and prevent unhealthy ones is to pass this information along. We are taught many things like how to drive a car, tie our shoes, ace a test, but rarely are we taught how to have a healthy relationship. When we understand how to love, we can strengthen our relationships and demonstrate to others how to do the same. Follow One Love (@Join1love) and encourage your friends to do the same. There, you will find resources and updates from young people, just like you, who are working to make the world a healthier place.
Knowledge is power! Promoting education around healthy and unhealthy relationships is the single most impactful thing you can do to promote healthy relationships this month. One Love’s educational workshops are being taught in over 650 colleges and 400 high schools across the country. You can educate your friends and community about relationships by hosting a workshop or starting a One Love club at your school. Visit joinonelove.org to learn more about One Love’s middle school curriculum, high school curriculum, college curriculum and beyond.
The tips given in the article are only the beginning. There are several ways you can act to promote healthy relationship and prevent relationship abuse. For more information about healthy and unhealthy relationships visit joinonelove.org.
Join us in making a difference in students' lives today by joining the WITH US Center for Bystander Intervention.