4 minute read

Love Should Always Be Safe

Love Should Always Be Safe

Though one third of young people experience abuse in their dating relationships, over 80 percent of parents either don’t know it’s a concern or think it’s not a problem.

Like domestic violence, dating abuse is misunderstood, minimized, and mishandled. Though young women aged 16-24 experience more violence in their relationships than any other age group, teens often struggle to identify when unhealthy behavior becomes abusive, and adults fail to take risks seriously.

Amy V. attended “Dating Abuse 101,” a Day One workshop where she learned about various types of relationship violence, consent, and technology-facilitated harm. The facilitator explained how power and control were at the heart of abuse, including threats, gaslighting, and blame-shifting. Amy saw all of these behaviors in her boyfriend.

Forbidden by her parents to date, Amy knew if her family discovered she had a boyfriend, they would send her back to their country of origin to live with relatives. Her high school

was prestigious, and Amy felt she couldn’t risk derailing her path to success. So she didn’t speak to her parents despite the debilitating fear and anxiety caused by her boyfriend’s threats to harm her or himself. He waited outside her classes and rode the subway with her both ways, making it difficult to avoid him or find support. After speaking to a teacher, Amy was connected to Day One, where professionals took her fears seriously, explained her options, and helped her navigate the time with her boyfriend safely. Amy graduated and left the state for college, away from her ex, and has been successful in her chosen career.

Talking to youth about safe relationships can save their lives. Day One educates and assists more than 20,000 teens like Amy each year. Workshops address consent and coercion, extreme jealousy, healthy break-ups, and online safety. When youth experience abuse by a partner, attorneys and social workers provide crisis counseling and legal

assistance. In leadership development courses, participating students plan awareness events, co-teach workshops, and act as peer advisors.

Relationship violence has surged amid the pandemic. Though young people are often limited by what responses are available to them, they experience a full range of abusive behaviors, including physical, sexual, emotional/verbal, financial, spiritual, and technological harm. Introducing preventive education to adolescents and teens helps them enter their first relationships ready to treat each other with respect and expect the same in return.

©THOMAS DONLEY

YOU CAN PLAY A ROLE IN ENSURING YOUNG PEOPLE IDENTIFY AND MAINTAIN SAFE AND HEALTHY PARTNERSHIPS:

• Listen, believe, and don’t judge survivors. They are not to blame.

• With toddlers and young children, point out healthy and unhealthy behaviors in media

and teach them about consent, i.e., “Can I hold your hand?” “Listen to your sister when she says stop tickling her.”

• Let young people know they can talk to you and that you can connect them with expert help.

• Ask your child’s school to teach about healthy relationships and spotting signs of dating abuse.

• Advocate in your state to require age-appropriate healthy relationships education in K through 12th grade.

To learn more about how Day One helps survivors of dating violence, 24 and under, and promotes healthy relationships among youth, see www.dayoneny.org.

BUILDING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS FROM DAY ONE

To learn more about how Day One helps survivors of dating violence, 24 and under, and promotes healthy relationships among youth, visit www.dayoneny.org

@dayoneny