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Healthy intimate relationships

Talking to young people about healthy intimate relationships

Defining and talking about what makes a healthy intimate relationship is important to your work with young people. Explain that a healthy relationship comes from equality, respect, trust, honesty, communication and support.

Young people need to know a healthy relationship has agreed boundaries made and respected by each partner. A good partner accepts you as you are, supports your personal choices and recognises your achievements. When people are in a healthy relationship they are able to have their own friends and interests — the relationship shouldn’t make a person feel trapped or like they are unable to do anything without the other person. Healthy relationships value the equality of women.

Use the Equality Relationships Wheel for Teens to talk about what behaviours are included in healthy relationships.

Learn more about teenage relationships, sexuality, wellbeing and break ups. Raising Children – the Australian parenting website

Practice considerations Conversation ideas
Explore who their relationship models are
  • Tell me about what your parent’s relationship is or was like? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? What would you like to be the same and different for you?
  • Are there other relationships you’ve seen? What do you like about them? What don’t you like?
  • Have there been times you have seen someone be treated unfairly in a relationship? What happened? What did you think?
Ask about their views on healthy relationship
  • Tell me what you feel makes a relationship fair?
  • What would you like your relationship to be like? Is it like that now? What could be different?
  • When you get a boyfriend or girlfriend, what do you want it to be like?
  • How should disagreements be handled in a relationship?
  • Should each partner in a relationship be equal? Should one have more power than the other?
  • Do you think it’s fair for one partner to control what another partner does or says?


Talking about how men use violence against women

When speaking with young people it is important to talk about the different types of violence commonly used by men against women. A recent survey found young Australians are more likely to blame victims and excuse and minimise violence against women.

According to the 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey most young people recognise that physical partner violence is a serious, criminal matter but many do not know what causes violence to happen.

The Line offers a collection of videos you can watch with young people or encourage them to watch with their parents to help get them talking and thinking about violence, gender and consent.

Talking to young people about the gendered nature of violence

  • 98% of young people recognise that physical partner violence is a serious matter and that it’s against the law.
  • 71% understand partner violence is perpetrated more often by men.
  • 87% know that women are most likely to be physically injured in a domestic violence attack.
  • Most young people agree women shouldn’t have to sort out sexual harassment by themselves and that it’s not a woman’s duty to stay in a violent relationship.
  • 60% agree violence against women is common (compared with 71% of the 35-to-65-years age group).

(Young Australian’s Attitudes towards Violence Against Women, 2013)

When working with young people, it is important that you highlight the gendered nature of domestic and family violence so that young women are prepared for it and young men don’t engage in unhealthy relationships. Given that one woman on average dies a week at the hands of a partner or former partner, and one in three women experiences violence in their lifetime, young people need to know that domestic violence is very common in Australia.

Emphasise that domestic and family violence is common in all different types of households, family types and cultural backgrounds. Explain that men also experience violence and should be supported in getting help. That said, let them know that women tend to experience violence more often and that when they are harmed, it is generally much more severe than it is for men.

Explain that one of the main causes domestic violence stems from the belief that women are not equal (along with the belief that men have the right to control women). Ask them what they think about this.

Highlighting the prevalence of domestic and family violence is crucial to breaking the stigma about it. It may help a young person who has lived with violence—either their parent’s or within their own intimate relationships—from feeling ashamed, different or isolated.

Take a look at practical advice about gender, power and privilege at the line website.

Practice prompt

Gender and sexual diversity - refers to all the diversities of sex characteristics, sexual orientations and gender identities, without the need to separately specify each of the identities or characteristics. It includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people. The acronym LGBTIQ+ is sometimes used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people collectively. ‘Gender and sexual diversity’ better reflects the diversity within these categories than the acronym. Gender and sexual refers to a community of people who share some things in common, there is also diversity within these categories

A website Another closet, (using the the LGBTIQ acronym) gives more information to sexual and gender diverse young people who are in violent or abusive relationships.

Conversation ideas:

  • What do you think the role of a man should be in a relationship?
  • What about the role of a woman?
  • Do you think men and women are equal?
  • Should they be treated equally in a relationship?
  • What does equality in a relationship look like?
  • What do you see in the behaviour and beliefs of your friends and peers about how women are treated? Do you think there is anything unfair?
  • What do you think is hard about being a boy? What do you think is hard about being a girl?
  • Are there times you have felt like you have to behave or look a certain way because of your gender? What did you do? How would you have liked to have behaved or looked?
  • Have there been times when you have treated someone unfairly because they are a boy or girl? What did you do? What did they do?
  • Why do you think that the role of women and men is part of why men use violence?

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