Each February, my peer helpers observe dating violence awareness month with a peer education campaign. In two weeks, our students will be at it again working the lunchroom, going into the classrooms, and collecting data regarding regarding relationships.   It truly surprises me how many of our students are unaware of the differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship (we typically find out this information through the surveys we distribute that week).  However, the other day I had an epiphany that identifying unhealthy relationships can be difficult even for adults.  Case in point…

Saturday morning blues…

During my weekly house cleaning ritual, I often turn on VH1 Classics and sometimes I will even stop to watch a video.  One particular Saturday, my favorite band was on so I immediately stopped what I was doing and listened.  As I was watched video (for the hundredth time), I was surprised to see there was a violent undertone to the story line (this totally caught me off guard).

Here is the scenario…

This doesn’t look like love in this video.

Following the physical altercation, the scene changes to show the two of them making out on the hood of his car.  So, I say to my kids, who are watching the video with me at this point, “I wonder what happened to cause her to want to leave? Looks like they had a unhealthy relationship”.  My kids jerked their heads around and just looked at me like I had a third eye.  “Mom, do you have to analyze everything?  It’s just a video!”  Just a video, I thought!  Watching videos on MTV was how I learned about life.  The sad news is that many of our youth and/or young adults learn about relationships watching others.  Also, it is unfortunate that all the years I had been watching this video that I had never noticed their unhealthy relationship…hmmm.

While it is easy for adults to miss unhealthy relationships in every day life, teens have a particularly difficult time. Reflecting back to my youth, I wonder how many times this was true for me when I was in high school. Thinking back, I remember that one particular girl…

In 9th grade, one of our classmates was dating an older classmate and he was HOT! In addition to his hotness, he was the star quarterback, he was tremendously well put together, and he was a senior! Many of us were jealous of the idea that this plain girl was able to snag the star quarterback; therefore, she never really talked about their relationship and would often go to great lengths to avoid the subject. Although the idea of dating the star football player was romantic, we noticed that our classmate appearance and behavior changed significantly over time.  For instance, she stopped wearing makeup, she rarely went out with her friends, and she was sad all the time. Unfortunately, it was not until I was older that I found out about the torture this girl experienced from this guy.  Even though I witnessed some of this treatment firsthand, I never realized it was abuse.  Here are some of the signs I actually witnessed:

  • She walked behind him.
  • She would hold her head down while they were in public so that he would not accuse her of looking at other guys.
  • She stopped wear makeup or fixing her hair.
  • She was not allowed to talk to others while they were together.
  • She had to be home at a certain time to receive his phone calls.
  • He would pinch her in public if she made him mad.   
Abuse is not always physical

    The sad part about it all is that no one said anything, not even her parents.  Oh, by the way, her dad was a cop. 

    Unfortunately, it was not until I was older that I realized these were actually signs of a unhealthy relationship. When I finally discovered that I was clueless about identifying the signals,  I knew that I needed to learn more! Therefore, I made a conscious decision to educate myself and become aware of the signs of a relationship abuse (this has served me well as a school counselor).  My awareness has even changed the way I view the world and has enhanced my desire to educate others.
    Since next month is Dating Violence Awareness month, it is a great opportunity for school counselors to educate students, parents, and staff members.  It is truly important to help our students understand the differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. If you need some help in your Dating Violence Awareness month activities, feel free to check out these resources below.

    Informational Resources:


    Stop Slut Shaming and Sexually Bullying
    Teen Dating Violence

    My Past Blog  Posts on Dating Violence and Unhealthy Relationships

    A Shade of Grey Should Never Hurt

    The High School Counselor’s Response to Sexual Bullying and Rape

    Dating Violence Awareness

    Think about getting your students involved in a Dating Violence Awareness campaign.

    How to Get Your Students Involved

    Dating Violence Awareness Kit
    Safety Planning
    That’s Not Cool Ambassador
    Healthy Relationships Lesson Plans


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