A new campaign starting this week aims to support teenage girls at risk of relationship abuse, and challenge preconceptions surrounding issues like coercive control. 

The website, called #LoveRespect, was launched on Monday by charity Women’s Aid, with young adult author Holly Bourne as its ambassador.

The slogan reads: “We believe love shouldn't feel bad, and that everyone has a right to be safe and happy.”

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This campaign is aimed specifically at younger women after recent research found that a third of teenage girls knew they had been in an abusive relationship, while 64 per cent of them had in fact experienced abusive behaviour, but they did not recognise it as such. 

Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “More than half of teenage girls have experienced some form of relationship abuse, but many of them don’t realise it. 

“Not only is public understanding of coercive control still lacking, but our research also shows that phrases like ‘domestic abuse’ don’t resonate with teenage girls – they see it as something that happens to women with husbands and children, and involves physical abuse.”

Bourne’s latest novel How Do You Like Me Now? follows the story of a woman whose life seems perfect on the outside, yet is struggling with a dysfunctional relationship.

Last year she told the BBC: “I wanted to explore all the reasons why a woman would not leave a relationship that was so clearly making her unhappy and you could argue was massively damaging her."

In an Instagram Stories thread this morning, she posted to her more than 10,000 followers about the difference between actions which are “romantic” and “creepy”.

Bourne addressed famous pop culture scenes which are portrayed as romantic, such as Noah hanging off a ferris wheel to convince Allie to date him in The Notebook. 

"A partner threatening to hurt themselves if you leave them is emotional abuse," she wrote. "Threatening self-harm/suicide is a method of control and you are not responsible for your partner's mental well-being."

She also brought up Edward watching Bella sleep in Twilight, saying: "Stalking is never romantic, not even if it's a fit bloke in glitter doing it."

Women’s Aid said that girls are more likely to engage with digital resources than call a helpline, which is why they created a website instead, and are also working on an online chat service.

If you have been affected by any issues mentioned in this article, you can contact the Domestic Violence Helpline for free on 0808 2000 247 or any of the following organisations:

 

Women’s Aid

Refuge

White Ribbon

ALICAS

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