© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Michelle Buttery, youth services co-ordinator with P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc., shows the front page of the newly launched teen relationships website that helps educate young people about the many forms of dating abuse and guides them to the resources and services they may need.
Dating and the teenage years go together hand-in-hand.
But if those relationships took an abusive turn, there was little in the way of information and direction to resources or services on P.E.I. that could help this age-specific group.
In response to that, P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. has launched a new teen relationships website aimed at teens and young adults that will help to educate them about dating violence and to identify unhealthy relationships.
“We’ve made (the website) really relevant across the board. Long-term relationship, short-term relationships, heterosexual or gay, newcomers (to Canada), teens with disabilities; we wanted all youth to feel that they could look at that website and know that it was relevant to them,” says Michelle Buttery, youth services co-ordinator with P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc.
“And the best way with youth is to do that through graphics. We didn’t want boys clicking in and going ‘Oh, they’re all girls so it’s not for me.’ We didn’t want a gay youth going on and thinking that it’s just for heterosexual relationships. We wanted to make sure that it was across the board and all-inclusive.
With regard to those graphics and the design of the website, P.E.I.-based Timeless Technologies website design and software development agency was onboard as an in-kind partner for the project. Other funding partners were the Intact Foundations and P.E.I. government inter-ministerial secretariat.
One section of the teen relationships website debunks a lot of myths associated with teen dating violence, such as the thought that boys are never victims of dating abuse; they can only be abusers.
“Sometimes that goes back to when people think of the abuse they think of the physical. So they always think of the male perpetrator as being the physically dominant partner. But also that boys don’t show weakness, don’t cry, you just (shrug it off). It’s kind of busting that myth, too,” Buttery says.
Part of the education process is identifying the many forms of abuse, which can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual and/or technological in nature.
A 15-minute video filmed during a day program for teens about abusive teen relationships that was presented by Buttery and colleagues is also included on the website, with support from the Mayor of Charlottetown’s Purple Ribbon Task Force.
“When we talked about the emotional abuse (some of the teens realized), ‘But I say that all the time!’ So that’s what ah-hah! moments were coming (during this session). Something like talking about harassing via text; some of the girls (related to that) ‘I do text him until he answers me back,’” Buttery says.
There is also an interactive relationship quiz that teens can take.
“The quiz was really just to bring a bit of self-recognition of what may be going on in their relationship. It’s one thing to have one piece (of the relationship puzzle in your mind), but then to sit and answer a series of questions and suddenly realize that five pieces of that quiz were just relevant to you (can be eye opening),” Buttery says.
“The idea was to make people stop and think and re-evaluate their relationship they are in as to whether it was healthy.”
The website also lists the resources and services that are available for help provincewide.
In addition, it provides tips and suggestions for friends of
teens who are in an unhealthy relationship so they can provide better support.
“Sometimes what you can do can make such a big difference in the outcome. If you sit there and say, ‘Well I told you before he was an ass. Why are you still with him? Just leave him.’ This is about giving you some tools; how to support your friend, your brother, your sister, your cousin,” says Buttery, who is now visiting Island schools, along with Jaime Griffin from Women’s Network, presenting a healthy relationships program and spreading the word about the teen relationship website.
“It’s not only for youth to look at it, but also for resource people to have access to it,” adds Phil Matusiewicz, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc.
“If somebody is in the education system and they’re talking about healthy relationships as part of their curriculum in Family Life or whatever their topic might be, there’s the website there and the video so you get a real sense there were some real ah-ha! moments for the youth who participated in that workshop in terms of the nature of relationships and how they may be abusive and not know it. That came out very clearly in that little 15-minute video.”
AT A GLANCE
What: The teen relationships website recently launched by P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. is aimed at youth ages 14 to 25.
Inside: Included on the site at are ways to identify an unhealthy relationship, the many forms abuse can take and a 15-minute real life video of teens discovering these, an interactive quiz, a list of resources and services available and more.