In recent years abusive or toxic relationship issues have been raised more frequently in the secondary schools’ programme.
A facilitator will start the class discussions by creating a relaxed environment within the class so that students can be comfortable to express their needs and expectations around the topic of relationships. Students will be asked to say their name and age and one word that comes into their minds about relationships. Words like love, loyalty, communication, commitment, trust, romance, sex, own space and fun will generally arise. Words describing negative relationships can arise too. All the words are listed on a board and the positive words are worked on first. Students are asked to pick two words that they feel are the most important. Often, trust and loyalty come out top of the list as an absolute need; the other words they feel can be worked on.
To discuss what is their understanding of an abusive or toxic relationship the students form small work groups. Their results can vary from mild to extreme: not respecting each other’s space, checking phones and passwords, being jealous and controlling, threats, assault (pushing, shoving, violence), and blackmail. An exercise is done with the students to enable them to recognise and identify early signs of abusive behaviours arising in a relationship. For their own safety students are encouraged to leave any abusive relationship and to talk to their parents or someone they trust if they find it difficult to leave or if they find themselves subject to threats.