• Useful information for adults who work with or care for young people.

    Learn about how teenagers experience relationship abuse, how to teach them about healthy relationships and how to help those who are experiencing abuse in their relationships.

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How to talk

This page gives guidance on leading a session with young people on abuse, and also how to raise concerns with young people individually.

How to lead a session

Firstly it’s important to plan your session content and ensure you have as much information as possible to respond to questions. You can check out the resources section for ideas or create your own workshop.

Being comfortable with the material is essential as young people will become distracted if you’re hesitant or awkward; which may mean they miss key learning points. You can access training through the local safeguarding board or contact one of the support options for advice.

Young people have fed back that these sessions need to be interactive and fun due to the serious nature of the material. It’s important that they get the information but without leaving them feeling worried or scared. You can put young people at ease by stating this at the start of the session; “the content may be difficult however we’re aiming to keep it interesting and light hearted, and if anyone needs to step out of the session or speak to me afterwards that is fine.”

They will ask questions so it’s important to prepare as much as possible but if you don’t know the answer then find out and come back to them. During trials of resources some young people have found it difficult to ask questions in the sessions. A simple solution to this was to pass around a piece of paper for individuals to write down their questions during the session and answer them all at the end.

Young people have also suggested running separate sessions for boys and girls to make it easier to discuss the topics. This may be useful also to separate victims from perpetrators and ease disclosures or questions; though this would only work for heterosexual relationships and not homosexual. It’s important to monitor participants during these sessions and be clear you’re there for them to talk if need be.

Speaking Individually

Warning Signs of an issue:

Adolescents do become secretive during these development years; it is natural as they’re still learning about themselves and the world, and some of these experiences can be embarrassing to share with adults. It’s important to monitor young people to ensure their being safe, and warning signs that their relationship is abusive can include.

  • Sudden, unexplainable fall in achievement in education.
  • Avoiding school or employment.
  • Personality change, suddenly becoming withdrawn or quiet.
  • Avoiding their usual friends or staying at home.
  • Mood swings, becoming irritable when asked about themselves or plans, possibly becoming angry.
  • Making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Injuries they can’t explain or refuse to explain.
  • Using drugs or alcohol.

These signs may not necessarily mean the young person is in an abusive relationship; for example many teenagers will experiment with drugs or alcohol or have sudden mood swings. Therefore it’s important to look at the young person’s partner too. Ask these questions to consider if they’re partner is perpetrating abuse:

  • Do they have difficulty controlling their emotions; in particular angry and jealousy?
  • Do they become annoyed when not included in partners plans, or if they’re partner meets new people?
  • Do they monitor their partner’s communications; calls, texts, email, or social media like facebook?
  • Do they try to persuade their partner not to go out or meet friends?
  • Do they blame others for their own problems or feelings?
  • Do they insult or put down their partner?
  • Do they use force during arguments?
  • Have they been threatening or violent towards others?

Some young people might believe that if their partner is jealous or checks up on them it means they love them. This isn’t true; this behaviour is about control not love and is a way for abusive people to make their partners think and behave in ways they want them too.

Approaching the Young Person

Talking to a teenager about their relationship can be difficult, and they might not want to open up to you so it’s important not to force the point and reinforce that you’re there if they ever need to talk.

Finding an appropriate time to talk is the first step; don’t start a conversation when they’ve just walked through the door. Find a time when they’re relaxed, in an environment they feel safe, and you will have time to talk.

Before you approach the young person consider what you want to say, you may want to note down what concerns you have about their relationship.

Try to start the conversation with a simple observation, such as “you seem happy with your boyfriend/girlfriend.” Beginning the conversation with a question or a concern may make the young person seize up or avoid the truth.

HELP ME EVERYTHING’S FINE
The young person discloses straight away. Victims of abuse are taught by the person harming them that the situation is there fault or they deserve what’s happening so they won’t disclose to others.
It’s important to give them time and let them talk freely, if possible make notes during the conversation or straight after the discussion has ended. Accurate record keeping is crucial in getting the right support in place and ensuring safety. Avoid rushing the person or being to blunt with your concerns. You could raise the concern like this; “I’ve noticed you’re hanging round with your friends less and I’m worried it may be because of your relationship.”
Reassure them you’re there to help and offer them choices, this is really important as they will have lost control over their decisions. You can then talk to the young person about what a healthy relationship is, link this back to your concern for example a healthy relationship means both parties can still be happy apart and being with their own friends.
Tell them about available help and support. You can offer to be there when they call or go with them. During the discussion the young person may be silent but they’ll still be taking things in and if you remain calm they may approach you when they’re ready. Tell them about sites they can look at.
If any safe guarding concerns have been raised you must act on them, and explain this to the young person. Tell them what you’re doing to keep them safe. End the discussion by reminding them you’re there to support them and encourage them to talk to people who might be able to help if they’re not comfortable talking to you.
If you’re still concerned after speaking to the young person, speak to a colleague or professional for further advice.
Anyone under the age of 18 is legally classed as a child, therefore any concerns for a child’s safety need to be acted on. You should call CHECS on 0300 123 5012 to discuss concern, and the Domestic Abuse Hub on 0300 123 5101 to find out about local support.

Whichever way the conversation goes impress on the young person that some things are ok in a relationship and some things aren’t. Give them options where they can look into healthy relationships themselves. Make it clear that violence in a relationship is not the way things should be, and no one should live feeling hurt or scared.

TOP TIPS

  • Do not promise to keep secrets, and act on any concerns
  • Remain calm
  • Prepare what you want to say
  • Find information on support options
  • Roll with resistance and don’t push the point
  • Reinforce you’re there if they ever need you