For most people Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the love and happiness that relationships bring. For some people however, their relationship may be the cause of fear, hurt, shame, panic or misery. This Valentine’s Day the government is set to re-launch their national teenage relationship abuse campaign, ‘this is abuse’ (www.direct.gov.uk/thisisabuse), in light of the new definition of domestic violence that finally recognises that abuse is often a part of teenager’s relationships as well as adults.
Any young person worried about their relationship can call Childline on 0800 1111. In an emergency anyone should call 999.
The British Crime Survey has recently found that young people are more likely to suffer abuse in relationships than any other age group, with 12.7% of women and 6.2% of men aged 16-19 having experienced some kind of domestic abuse in the last year.
As with adults, domestic abuse in young people’s relationships covers many separate yet related issues including, violence, bullying, belittling and controlling behaviours as well as issues of consent, harassment, rape, sexual assault, ‘honour’ and forced marriage.
Services in Warwickshire already acknowledge that domestic abuse can affect any relationship regardless of the age of those involved. Sue Ingram, Warwickshire County Council’s Domestic Abuse Manager said: “We are really pleased that the abuse suffered by young people in relationships is being recognised and that information and services are being developed to support young people in such situations. Our message to anyone affected by abuse in a relationship, no matter how young, even if it isn’t an act of violence, is that it is not OK and you do not have to go through this alone. There are services that can listen to you, provide information, help and support. Please do contact someone. Talking to someone can help.”
Warwickshire County Council is supporting the government’s key messages as well as developing their own more targeted work with the help of local young people. Here in Warwickshire we are fast becoming an example of good practice in our approach of involving young people in all our work that directly affects or is targeted towards them. By engaging with young people in decision making we can help not only better target our messages to ensure they are effective, but more importantly better understand young people’s attitudes and behaviours in terms of domestic abuse.
Warwickshire’s Respect Yourself Campaign and Warwickshire Against Domestic Abuse are working together with Jonny Hunt a sex education (SRE) consultant from Going off the Rails to ensure young people in Warwickshire receive safe, reliable and accessible information and support.
We will be working with a group of pupils from George Eliot School in Nuneatonto explore the many issues that feed in to abuse in teenage relationships and how young people can best be supported. The group will be made up of a mix of both boys and girls, from years 9-11. They will take part in comprehensive relationship and sex education (SRE) training over a number of sessions before focusing specifically on domestic abuse in teenage relationships.
The group will examine the government campaign before developing an extended awareness campaign locally, including additional material for the new Respect Yourself campaign website (respectyourself.info). They will also look at what resources could be designed to help young people explore positive relationships, negotiation skills and encourage them to take control of their personal relationships.
Jonny says “It is essential to understand the unique position of young people when it comes to domestic abuse. Adult relationships are complicated enough, and that is with practice. For adolescents everything is new and they have no basis by which to measure whether what they are experiencing or feeling is normal. There is also the added pressure of their peers and the (often self-imposed) distance that exists between them and their parent’s.”