Grace Smith House’s Healthy Relationship Campaign Uses Social Media to Spread Domestic Abuse Awareness Among Teens
The Dutchess County organization hopes its new initiative will help prevent abusive relationships among teens
Here’s a sobering statistic: According to the American Psychological Association, one in three teenagers has been in an abusive relationship. Why such a high percentage? Himali Pandya of the Grace Smith House — a Dutchess County organization that assists victims of domestic violence — offers a theory. “Abusive relationships are about power and control, and kids often feel powerless,” she says. “They don’t get to pick their teachers, sometimes not even what they eat for dinner, but they do get to pick who they date. And that is power.” To combat this, Grace Smith House created its Healthy Relationship Campaign. “We want to encourage teens to use that power to form good relationships,” says Pandya.
The campaign began in October, and consists of Facebook ads, public service announcements, and posters at movie theaters. Teens are directed to www.teendatingquiz.com, an online quiz that evaluates whether their relationship is healthy. The Internet is the campaign’s main tool. “Teenagers spend a heck of a lot of time on their devices. So we thought we could use that to reach them,” says Pandya.
And so far it’s worked. Thanks to heavy Facebook activity, in the first month 2,500 teens visited the Web site and about 1,000 completed the test.
Entitled “How Messed Up is Your Relationship?” the quiz asks a series of questions like “Has your social life changed since you started this relationship?” The objective is to get kids thinking about how their partner treats them. “It’s about validating that teen’s feelings,” says Pandya. “It lets them know that the feeling in the pit of their stomach is right.”
Of the teens who responded, about half have unhealthy relationships. “The answers are grim, I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” says Pandya. Common behaviors include isolating the victim from friends and family, and constant texts and calls.
Once the abusive behavior is identified, Grace Smith House provides the victim with information about safely breaking up, and how to develop a good relationship the next time around. That sort of teaching, Pandya says, is the whole point of the campaign. “Education is power. We want teens to know that respect in a relationship is not a privilege, it’s a necessity.”