The anti-abuse charity Women’s Aid has launched a new website specifically aiming to reach teenage girls who don’t realise that they’re experiencing relationship abuse.
According to the charity’s research — a joint effort with Cosmopolitan magazine — a third of the teenage girls they questioned knew they had been in an abusive relationship.
But when they asked the remaining two-thirds more detailed questions about their relationships, they discovered that actually 64% of them had experienced abusive behaviour but didn’t recognise it.
The #LoveRespect website exists to bust the myths surrounding coercive control, and bring to light the smaller behaviours that you might not realise are abuse, or that are warning signs that the abuse could get worse.
It features a relationship health check, survivor stories, practical advice, and an email support service — based on the fact teenage girls are less likely than older women to call a phone helpline.
The relationship health check features questions like: “Do they ever make you feel bad for seeing your friends and family?”; “What do they think of the way you dress?”; and “What do they do if you mention breaking up?”
If you give answers that raise some concern, like “sometimes they ask me to change [my clothes]”, the website gives advice, alongside a short survivor story.
“My ex would tell me I looked beautiful and he loved my clothes when we met, then later he might say he’d been embarrassed to be seen with me and I looked like a ‘slag,’” says one survivor, Chlo. “I started planning every outfit meticulously to try not to upset him. It didn’t work though as he’d always find something else to pick on.”
“It was exhausting constantly trying to avoid making him angry and I lost a lot of confidence while we were together,” she continues. “Try to talk to someone you trust about what’s happening in your relationship. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal now, when someone is controlling in a relationship things usually only get gradually worse and it’s better to get help early on.”
Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the website was launched to help teenage girls better “understand the nature of controlling and coercive behaviour.”
“We want to let them know that support is out there, and tell the stories of young women who have been through the same things and survived,” she said.
“#LoveRespect provides teenage girls with the tools they need to recognise abuse, understand their rights, and seek the right support,” Claire added.