Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

by Ellie Hutchinson, Scottish Women’s Aid

Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

I’m the prevention worker at Scottish Women’s Aid, and this means I spend pretty much all my time thinking about violence against women. But I don’t just think about the causes, I think about solutions. The bottom line of all my work is everyone deserves to be safe and secure and have healthy relationships.

Healthy Relationships
So what is a healthy relationship?  A good starting point is to think about our relationships with our friends. What values do we look for in a friendship? Do we look for trust, humour, respect, empathy? Or do we look for possession, jealousy and control?

Most of us would look for the first list- but many of us might forget those values when we’re in romantic relationships. Thinking about why that might be leads us to explore how we learn about relationships- both romantic and non-romantic. Programmes or films that talk about friendships show people supporting each other in crisis, having fun and just generally hanging out.  Programmes or films that feature sexual relationships tend to show a very specific way of “doing” a relationship.

Unhealthy Relationships
Next time you see a film or a music video about sexual relationships think about- what do those people look like? What are they doing? What are the things they are valuing in each other? How are they talking about each other? To each other? Quite often it is possessiveness, jealousy, ownership or treating people as sexual objects. If a friend told you what to wear, who to see, how to talk, how to have sex (or not) it wouldn’t feel ok. And it’s not. And it’s not ok for a partner to do those things either. That’s why in one of our projects we asked young people to tell us what a healthy relationship means to them, why they “get it”. To find out more click here.

How to Speak Out
Most of us know what a healthy relationship looks like, but it can feel hard to get that when we’re faced with so many messages to the contrary. It’s also really hard for women and girls to speak out, because if we do so we might be labelled “uptight” or much worse. But dating and domestic abuse isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a people one; and we need boys and men to help us and speak out too.

Speaking out can be tough, so here are some suggestions on how you might want to get involved:

  1. Challenge sexism in your friends. We run a bystander programme to help people think about how they might do this. Check it out http://togetherwecanstopit.org/get-savi-resources/
  2. If you see something that promotes unhealthy relationships and you’re online, share it  on twitter with the #notbuyingit hashtag, or forward on to @everyday sexism
  3. Think about the media you do read/watch/buy- what is it saying about relationships?
  4. Support folk when they tell you about unhealthy relationships. Find out more http://www.togetherwecanstopit.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2010/11/SWA-Supporting-Someone.pdf
  5. If you’re a man and want to speak out, check out the #notthatlad campaign from us, the NUS and White Ribbon Scotland. http://togetherwecanstopit.org/news/im-not-that-lad-creating-an-alternative-banter/
  6. Read up on the issue. Find out more about dating abuse http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/advice-information/advice-information-young-people/dating-abuse

We believe that by doing one thing, we can stop domestic  and dating abuse.

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