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.
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 Nuneaton to 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 (www.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.
The website, from Warwickshire’s Respect Yourself Campaign is aimed at young people aged 13 and over. It is available online at http://www.respectyourself.info or as a smartphone app. It also provides information for parents who may be concerned about their teenager’s relationship.
Any young person worried about their relationship can call Childline on 0800 1111
In an emergency anyone should call 999.
http://www.talk2someone.org.uk or call Freephone helpline 0800 408 1552 (Calls from most landlines to the Warwickshire Domestic Abuse Freephone number are free and not itemised on bills. If in doubt, or calling from a mobile, please check with your telephone network provider.)
Further information can be found at: http://www.goingofftherails.co.uk/
Further information on the Government’s campaign can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/violence-against-women-girls/teenage-relationship-abuse/