LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Understand unhealthy relationship signs

To the editor:

Recently, University of Virginia professor Joseph Allen shared results from a study discussing unhealthy relationships and their correlation with negative long-term health effects.

How can we prevent unhealthy relationships in the first place?

A healthy relationship requires everyone in the relationship to feel safe, be able to set their own boundaries, and communicate openly and honestly. Unhealthy relationship behaviors like isolation – preventing a partner from engaging with friends and family, so the relationship becomes their whole world – are prevalent and often co-occur with other types of abuse.

A relationship can easily move from being unhealthy to being abusive when a partner attempts to control the other, take away their power to make choices, and cause them any kind of harm – physical, emotional, financial or sexual. Many people say that the difference between an “intense relationship” and an abusive one is physical violence – but as this study and many others show, the long-term effects of emotional harm are still serious. 

Prevention is possible! As stated in the article, Allen’s study reported that teens who “kept contact with their friends and peers” led healthier lives compared to their peers without a support system. This highlights how important a connected, supportive community is for addressing and preventing intimate partner violence among youth.

Youth are more likely to have healthy relationships when they experience high self-esteem, feel invested in community, understand the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and when they know how to respect and help others.  Shelter for Help in Emergency offers free programs discussing these topics and more to schools and youth organizations in the city of Charlottesville and surrounding counties (Greene, Fluvanna, Albemarle, Nelson, and Louisa).

More information on violence prevention programs can be found at shelterforhelpinemergency.org or by contacting prevention@ShelterforHelpInEmergency.org.

Local research is a great start to the conversation; we can keep it going by pushing for healthy relationships for all youth, in our community and others.

Alex Weathersby

Prevention Services Coordinator

Shelter for Help in Emergency

Charlottesville

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