[Providence, RI – February 26, 2014] In an effort to engage youth throughout Rhode Island in a conversation about healthy relationships, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) hosted a statewide Tweet Chat yesterday, February 25, from 4-5 p.m. Discussions about healthy relationship behaviors and warning signs of unhealthy relationships equipped young people with the skills they need to identify abusive situations. Local students participated, including those from Rhode Island high schools, youth groups like Young Voices (creators of this year's Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month Public Service Announcement), and colleges, including the Johnson & Wales Gender Equity Center, who hosted the Tweet Chat for a second time. These young people, and other RICADV partners in the movement to end dating and domestic violence, took to Twitter to raise awareness about relationship abuse and define what healthy love is for their communities.
Rhode Island youth also shared depictions of healthy love in February through the RICADV's #KNOWwhatloveis Instagram contest. The Tweet Chat served as a forum for announcing the contest winners and honorable mentions. Having asked Rhode Islanders between the ages of 12 and 24 to illustrate what healthy love is to them via Instagram photo submissions, the RICADV, its Public Awareness Working Group (PAWG; comprised of member agency representatives – see below for a list of the RICADV's six member agencies), and its task force of dating and domestic violence survivors, SOAR (Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships), selected three winning photos out of almost 200 submissions.
Each winning entry clearly conveyed a healthy relationship through the unique perspective of the contest participant. The first place photo and $250 grand prize winner represented the importance of exemplifying healthy love for one's family and being a healthy relationship role model for the next generation. The second place $150-winning entry, a recreation of a popular meme, conveyed that "love is caring even when you're angry," respectful even when you disagree. The third place submission and $100 winner depicted that former partners can still have a healthy relationship even if they're no longer together and that setting this example for one's family has a significant impact on children's understanding of healthy love. All three winning photos illustrate that while healthy relationships require work, take many forms, and can stem from a variety of situations, the constant between all of them is a shared respect and care for the well-being of those involved. The RICADV's Instagram Contest honorable mentions and other top photos can be viewed on the organization's website.
The #NOMORERI Tweet Chat and #KNOWwhatloveis Instagram Contest were part of the RICADV's ongoing digital strategy to reach youth where they spend a lot of their free time – online. Digital dating violence, including abuse perpetrated via social media platforms, is increasingly common among youth in Rhode Island. It is important to teach young people how these tools can be used in harmful ways but also how these technologies can help challenge abusive behaviors if they are used to promote healthy relationships instead.
Throughout February, the RICADV asked young people to become active bystanders in a variety of ways, expressing the importance of getting educated about dating violence, its warning signs, and healthy relationships. Earlier in the month, the RICADV launched a new youth section of their website and also debuted a broadcast PSA created by Young Voices and made possible, in part, by RICADV sponsor Alliance Security. Using such tools, the RICADV has been able to offer information to young people living in the digital age. This year's campaign focused on outlining tangible ways they can take action to help prevent dating abuse before it starts and to safely intervene in abusive situations they see occurring.
"It's understandable for a young person to be afraid to get involved. They may think it's none of their business, they may fear getting hurt themselves and, in many cases, they may not even know what a healthy relationship looks like in order to know abuse when they see it. It's not healthy for a partner to demand to check your phone or to check up on you constantly. These are controlling behaviors, and they're warning signs of dating violence," said Lucy Rios, Director of Prevention and Public Education for the RICADV.
Through its digital campaign strategy, the RICADV aims to educate young Rhode Islanders of their own power to help end and prevent dating and domestic violence in Rhode Island. The community needs its young people to become active bystanders who KNOW what to do. It is the hope of the RICADV, PAWG, and SOAR that youth throughout the state will become empowered by these digital initiatives to take action within their own social circles if they see, hear or learn about abuse.
To support dating violence prevention, individuals can text NOMORE to 80880 to give.