One in three adolescents will be a victim of either verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Ignoring this topic in our schools will not lower these numbers. As teachers, our ability to make an impact on student decision-making is limited to just a small amount of time, and it's important that we address the essentials. Unhealthy relationships can take many forms, and there are some aspects of unhealthy relationships that can be tough to talk about. Introducing the concepts of boundaries, red flags, and the cycles of a relationship gives students the tools to recognize them and make educated decisions. The following activities are aimed to spark discussion and reflection in the classroom.
The statistics of abuse in relationships are frighteningly high. Unfortunately, these numbers may be on the low end, considering some victims can be fearful to come forward. Only about 30% of abuse in unhealthy relationships gets reported, and not every victim or aggressor is atypical. LGBTQ individuals are equally or more likely to experience some form of abuse in an unhealthy relationship. Men are more likely not to report being a victim. During any discussion, it is important to stress that the victim is not at fault for the abuse. One of the most common denominators when dissecting unhealthy relationships is guilt.
Our role as educators is to provide opportunities to help prevent unhealthy relationships. Talking about this topic is critical to stopping this norm from recurring because students will be able to recognize the signs and cycles. Understanding and offering ways to get help to students is important research to do before these activities. Loveisrespect.org is an excellent national program to reach out for help or to gain information. There is a 24-hour hotline for students to use by texting “loveis” to 22522 or calling (866) 331-9474. The national domestic violence hotline also has teen resources. Going over school safe zones, faculty members, and resources in the building should be a precursor to these lessons.