POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 103 Why do young women stay in abusive dating relationships? • Many girls stay in abusive relationships because of peer pressure to have a boyfriend. In a 1989 study of 216 adolescent girls in Nova Scotia, 26% of the girls said they would rather have a boyfriend than be alone. • Many young women have difficulty identifying abuse, particularly in the case of sexual abuse. There is a common misconception that rape and sexual abuse are committed by strangers, therefore victims who have been sexually assaulted by their partners tend not to identify the incident as rape. • Some girls stay in abusive relationships because they hope their partners will change. Fitzpatrick's (1989) study notes that 54% believed their partner would change, and 47% thought they could change their partner's behaviour. Thirty-two percent of the girls stayed with their partners because they believed they needed their love and support. What can be done to prevent dating violence? Many of the solutions to preventing dating violence are the same as woman abuse. Education: High schools and universities are an influential means of providing information and counselling to students with regard to dating violence. Educational programs that teach students about healthy relationships and appropriate, non-violent ways to resolve conflict can prevent dating violence. Young men and women should know that: • Abuse is always wrong and no one deserves to be abused. Violence is a crime, whether the abuser is a stranger, friend or a partner. • One always has the right to say no to unwanted sexual activity. No one has the right to force sexual activity on another person. Any sexual act committed against a person without their consent is against the law. • Controlling, possessive or jealous behaviour in a dating relationship should not be mistaken for love. Relationships should always be based on trust, equality and mutual respect. Youth involvement: As teens you can... • Stage dramatic productions to raise awareness and convey the message of prevention to your peers. • Take a stand against violence by working to create a school environment that embraces positive, healthy relationships among peers and dating partners. As students, you can form "anti-violence" committees to provide peer support and information about dating and youth violence. • For girls, support a friend who may be experiencing violence in a dating relationship by encouraging her to seek help/talk to someone. For guys, adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards violence in dating relationships, and support the message that you don't have to hit to be "cool". Community awareness: Communities can highlight the issue of dating violence through public awareness campaigns and prevention programs. Public libraries can offer information packages and reading material on dating violence. As a community member, you can support available resources for youth, sexual assault centres, and local public awareness initiatives. Local businesses can become involved by displaying posters and phone numbers of available resources for youth experiencing violence. Campus awareness: Universities can provide resources to students such as information, counselling, support centres, crisis hotlines and educational workshops on issues of dating violence. As parents/guardians: Help young people build their self-esteem by encouraging them to talk about the things that bother them, listening respectfully, encouraging them to express their likes and dislikes, acknowledging their achievements, being positive when correcting them, and teaching them that jealousy and forced intimacy in relationships is not a sign of love. Sexual Assault Centres: Provide public education, counselling, support, information and referral to victims of sexual assault and their advocates, partners, family members and others. Call for help. (...What is dating violence continued)