For Valentine’s Day, What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

One of Youth Radio’s “beats” is teen relationships. Within that, we have spent a lot of time examining the under-covered issue of teen dating violence. In the Summer of 2007, Youth Radio Los Angeles held a workshop exploring dating violence. The stories produced that session covered a wide range of topics that reveal societal pressures that sometimes result in abusive relationships. For example, we looked at gender roles in hip hop and pop music, teen pregnancy, and the pressures of homophobia. Our peer teachers Consuelo Cisneros and Anahi Canales wrote blog entries about teen dating violence more directly.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we are re-publishing some of their writings, so that we may consider.. what makes our relationships healthy – or not?

“Teen Dating Violence”
No one deserves to be abused, and you’ll be amazed with how many people you know have been abused. Today I attended a “Dating and Domestic violence” workshop led by Maeve O’Leary, a student at UCLA and a local performing artist who has done peer health education since she was in High School. This powerful topic made me look back at many problems my friends, other people, and I have gone through. There are seven types of abuse…..

Physical: slapping, pushing, hitting, kicking, biting, etc.
Emotional: name-calling, putting down, insults, etc.
Sexual: being forced into sexual contact
Threats: “If you…I’ll kill you!”
Intimidation: gestures, looks, smashing things
Isolation: being kept from seeing or talking to others, not allowed to go out.
Economic: being given an allowance, not allowed to have a job, etc.

What exactly is domestic violence? Domestic violence or abuse often refers to violence between spouses, but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners. It occurs when a family member, an ex partner tries to physically or psychologically control another. I have witnessed emotional, economic, and intimidation.

For example, imagine a Dad who insults his children and wife on an almost everyday basis. He doesn’t let his daughters go out, talk to boys, have boyfriends and put on make up. When the girls go out with out permission, he assumes they went out to have sex or do drugs. Who does he blame? He blames his wife for not “raising them properly.” Mommy feels extremely guilty and is forced to give dad money. Here is where economic and psychological abuse take place. This is absolutely not a healthy relationship. The mother and her children are extremely intimidated by this guy.

Teenagers are victims of such violence as well. Here is where dating abuse takes place. Dating abuse is violence between teenagers.
Unfortunately many teenagers are not aware that they are in abusive relationships. Now picture a 16 year old boy treating his girlfriend almost as if she had no feelings. “You will never become a rock star, just kidding,” Kevin tells his girlfriend Matilda. Kevin accuses Matilda of cheating. He spent most of his days prank calling her. She felt as if she had no space.

Matilda was completely drenched in fear yet felt that she was in love with this person. She felt isolated from friends, and to catch up with her social life, she made a smart choice of getting involved in school. She joined many clubs like Youth for Positive Change, and MECHA.

When Matilda tried breaking up with him, he would beg her not to. He promised her that he would change, and she believed him. Who knows how he’s doing right now. She broke up with him and is currently working hard to achieve her goals.

People often jump into conclusions. Some say that people who are abused like the abuse, but no one likes abuse. Fear, children, love, guilt, and faith are the factors that do not allow the victims to walk away.

A healthy relationship consists of communication, trust, space, fairness, and most importantly respect. No one deserves an abusive relationship. Being abusive is not genetic or an illness. It is learned behavior. However, they need help just like the victims of violence need.


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