Cheesy. Hallmark Holiday. Consumerist. Gory, even. These are some of the ways people describe Valentine’s Day. And while all have some merit, perhaps the only real importance of the day is for people to reflect on love and relationships. And, in doing so, to ensure that these relationships are always healthy and positive for both parties.
Unfortunately, we do not do a fantastic job of discussing healthy relationships in the U.S. Schools often do not teach about it, parents are not always comfortable or equipped to do so, and media glamorizes unhealthy and abusive relationships over more stable and loving ones.
Studies have found that most schools are not at all prepared to address dating violence or healthy relationships. Some three-quarters of principals admit as much. Educators note a lack of training as well as little protocol for when dating violence is identified. Sadly, the study found that the majority of principals could not correctly answer four out of nine knowledge-based questions about dating violence. Yet those educators and administrators who receive training are far more likely to assist a survivor.
Parents are often unaware of the scope and dynamics of abusive dating relationships, nor do they always take time to talk with their kids about healthy ones. According to Love Is Respect, a nonprofit organization, 81 percent of parents either say they don’t know or do not believe dating violence is a serious issue for teens. Less than 60 percent of parents can identify all the warning signs of abuse. Perhaps this is why less than ten percent of youth who are involved in abusive dating relationships tell an adult.
Media often presents abusive relationships as if they are normal, even fun and sexy. By contrast, healthy ones often appear to be boring and mundane. Yet nothing can be further from the truth. The toxic trauma that enduring abuse creates can last a lifetime and is far from innocent drama. Yet books and movies like “Twilight,” which are intended to appeal to young people, make it seem as though stalking and coercive behavior are normal signs of love. Likewise, popular music and videos imply that there really are “blurred lines,” a concept that has zero recognition in the legal sense.
This Valentine’s Day, if you are lucky enough to be with someone who cares about you and treats you in a positive and loving fashion, show your thanks in whatever way suits you. If not, or if you’re not currently in a relationship, it’s a great day to think about what it should be to be healthy.
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