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Workshop 1: Healthy Relationships 101

Relationship violence / Youth Dating Violence (YDV): refers to the physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse that occurs within a relationship. Relationship violence can happen in person or online and can have long-lasting effects on the well-being, especially in young people.

Gender

 

Gender: Gender is how society thinks we should look, think, and act as individuals. Our society has beliefs and unspoken rules (that can evolve) about how we should act based on gender. For example, many people expect men to be more aggressive than women.

Gender identity: This refers to how you feel inside about your gender. Your feelings about your gender can emerge early in life, and they can also change throughout your life. It is your personal sense of being a boy, girl, non-binary, two-spirit, agender, or something else entirely. There are many other gender identities that exist!

Gender expression: This is how you express your gender to others, including your behaviour, clothing, hairstyle, or the name you choose to go by.

Gender continuum: This concept defines gender as existing along a spectrum rather than in strict categories of being a man or a woman. The Gender Continuum recognizes that individuals may identify with a variety of genders beyond the two traditional binary classifications. It also emphasizes that gender can evolve over time and is different for everyone. Understanding the Gender Continuum promotes inclusivity and respect for diverse gender identities within sexual health education.

Cisgender: Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity matches with their assigned sex at birth. For example, someone with a vagina who identifies as a woman is considered cisgender.

Transgender: This term is often used to describe anyone whose gender identity differs from their gender assigned at birth.

Agender: The definition of Agender varies based on the person using it. Some individuals use this term to refer to having a “lack of gender,” some use it to describe themselves as being gender neutral, and some use it to describe themselves as feeling like both a man and a woman at the same time.

​Non-binary: Non-binary serves as an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of experiences and expressions of gender diversity. It's important to note that individuals who identify as non-binary may choose different pronouns to reflect their gender identity.

 

Two-Spirit: Two-Spirit is a term originating from Indigenous culture, and describes an individual who embodies both masculine and feminine spirits. In some cases, Two-Spirit individuals may have distinct masculine and feminine identities, alternating between them, while in others, they may simultaneously embody both genders. Although the term "Two-Spirit" has recently gained popularity, it actually has deep historical roots and should only be used with reference to Indigenous cultures where it has historical significance. 

Genderqueer: is a term used to describe a gender identity that falls outside traditional categories. People who identify as genderqueer may feel that their gender is fluid, non-binary, or simply different from societal norms

Genderfluid: This broadly refers to an individual who may fluctuate among different gender identities throughout their life, or express multiple different genders simultaneously.

Sexuality

 

Sexual Orientation: This term is used to describe who you are sexually and/or romantically attracted to. A few examples of sexual orientations include lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, asexual and heterosexual.

Lesbian: Generally, the term lesbian refers to women who are sexually and/or romantically attracted exclusively to other women.

Gay: The term gay is generally known as the sexual and/or romantic attraction to others of the same gender, often in reference to men. 

Bisexual: commonly refers to individuals who are attracted to both men and women.

Pansexual: refers to individuals who feel romantic, and/or sexual attraction to individuals, regardless of their gender. This does not mean they are attracted to everyone they meet, but that the gender of the person is not the factor in their attraction.

Queer: The term “queer” may carry different meanings to different individuals: it covers a wide range of possible definitions, depending on the context in which it is used, or based on the identity of the individual who chooses to use it. Someone who has either a sexuality or gender identity that does not fit into society's norms may call themselves queer. Identifying as queer is not mutually exclusive with other genders and sexualities. For example, someone who is gay may also refer to themselves as queer or someone who is transgender may also refer to themselves as queer.

Questioning: This refers to individuals in the process of exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Some individuals may choose to identify with this term openly, or privately. Either way, it means that the individual feels their sexuality and/or gender may be different than the one they had previously been identifying with.

 

Asexual: Individuals who identify as asexual or as “aces” experience little or no sexual attraction to others. However, asexual individuals may still experience emotional or romantic attraction to others.

 

Aromantic: Individuals who identify as aromantic experience little to no romantic attraction to others. They often do not wish to have romantic life partners but may still experience sexual attraction to others.

Dimensions of Sexuality

 

Relationships: The way in which two or more people are connected to each other. This includes romantic partners, friends, peers, and many other individuals we interact with. 

Thoughts & feelings: This dimension encapsulates all the different emotions we have regarding sexuality. This could include love, excitement, jealousy, nervousness, anger, and every other emotion you may feel.

Body: This dimension includes all of the physical components of sexuality. Examples include genitalia, reproductive organs, certain hormones, as well as our heart rate.

Values and beliefs: We often think of values and beliefs as very internal and personal, however, they can be influenced by many other factors, such as family, friends, religion, society, and ethnicity. Our values and beliefs can change how we feel about our sexuality, how we express it, the expectations we have, and how we feel about the sexuality of others.

Online

Sexting: This includes multiple acts, such as sending or receiving nude or nearly nude photos, and videos showing nudity or sex acts. It also includes sending or receiving text messages that are of a sexual nature.

Intimate images/videos: Refers to images or videos that depict explicit or assumed sexual activity, nudity, or partial nudity.

Image-based sexual abuse: The non-consensual creation and/or distribution of intimate images and video. Includes:

  • Non-consensually taken images that have been hacked or stolen and then shared (distribution).

  • Non-consensual creation of sexual imagery: for example photos and videos created by means of upskirting, forms of voyeurism and sextortion, or recordings of sexual assault (creation).

  • Perpetrators threatening to share images, may this be through blackmail, coercion, or something else.

Online luring and grooming: befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a young person online, and sometimes the family, to gain trust and access to the person with the objective of sexual abuse (sexual exploitation, child trafficking, child prostitution, cybersex trafficking, child pornography, activities under 18). 

Cyberstalking: This is the act of persistently and intentionally using electronic means, such as social media, to harass, threaten, or intimidate an individual. It involved repeated, unwanted invasion into the individual's online activities or communications. Cyberstalkers may use various online tools to monitor, gather information about, or exert control over their target. Cyberstalking can potentially escalate to real-life violence, through the escalation of threats, information gathering, or the stalker's obsession.

Cyber violence: Cyber violence is online behaviour that constitutes or leads to harm against the physical, psychological and/or emotional state of an individual or group. This is a form of technology facilitated violence.

  • online harassment

  • threatening

  • bullying

  • blackmailing

  • unwanted sexting

  • (cyber)stalking

  • hate speech

  • doxing

  • hacking

  • luring

  • non-consensual sharing of images

  • creepshots/digital voyeurism (taking non-consensual photos or videos and sharing them)

  • recording & distribution of sexual assault

Sometimes this violence is happening both online and offline.

Violence & Exploitation

Youth Dating Violence (YDV): refers to the physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse that occurs within a relationship. Relationship violence can happen in person or online and can have long-lasting effects on the well-being, especially in young people.

Normalization of violence: is accepting violence as “normal, natural, or unchanging over time or unable to be changed” part of life. Normalizing presents violence as not having real life consequences, and that it is the responsibility of the victim, not the perpetrator, to prevent violence (2).

Sexual exploitation: is “the sexual abuse of a minor that involves youth being manipulated into exchanging a sexual act for something in return”, like “food, shelter, clothing, drugs, alcohol, material items as well as non-material items such as love, belonging and acceptance or any other consideration” (3).

Sexual assault: Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another.

Rape: Rape is a form of sexual assault. Rape means being forced to have vaginal, oral or anal intercourse against your will or without your full consent.

Human trafficking: Human trafficking is the act of controlling another person by means of force, threat or deception for the purpose of exploiting them. Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery where victims are treated as possessions that can be bought and sold. Victims can be of any age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, income, or geographic location. Illegal (1).

Peer-to-peer exploitation: A form of peer-to-peer exploitation is when youth recruit other youth into the exploitative situation. For example: a youth who is being groomed, receiving gifts, and living a luxurious lifestyle may invite their other friends to give it a try

Relationships

 

Consent: Giving consent means agreeing to do something. In sexual and intimate relationships, sexual consent refers to giving permission for doing or receiving any form of sexual activity (from touching and kissing, to penetration). There are a lot of aspects about sexual consent that are important to understand. Consent:

  • is always needed, no matter the partner, the context, or the types of sexual activity

  • is freely given (no threats, pressure, or coercion)

  • is informed (a person should know what they consent to)

  • is enthusiastic

  • can be revoked at any time

  • can be given for some activities, and not for others

  • is never assumed

  • can be communicated verbally or nonverbally

Consent cannot happen when:

  • someone is incapacitated

  • someone is less than 16 (sometimes less than 18)

  • there are power dynamics

  • there are threats, coercion, pressure, or force

Boundaries: In the context of relationships, boundaries are essential guidelines that determine the limits of how individuals interact with each other, ensuring respect, trust, safety. Setting healthy boundaries involves establishing clear rules and expectations around communication, emotional support, shared responsibilities, and personal space.

Healthy boundaries: In any kind of relationship, health boundaries are crucial for creating a respectful, trusting, safe, and overall healthy relationship. Creating healthy boundaries involves setting and maintaining rules within the relationship. These could be rules related to expected communication, emotional support, shared responsibilities, privacy and physical boundaries. It is important to talk about these expectations openly, and also follow the boundaries that have been set in order to maintain respect within the relationship. 

Healthy relationship: When a relationship is healthy, partners feel good about themselves and each other most of the time. Partners feel like they have respect, kindness, trust, honesty, equality, and good communication. And they also give each other space to have their own lives outside the relationship.

Unhealthy relationship: Partners in unhealthy relationships usually have issues around communication, respect, boundaries, safety, and trust (amongst other things). One or more partners may feel anxious, confused, uncertain about the relationship, and unsafe. Some of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship are put-downs, anger, jealousy, feelings of guilt, control issues, and disrespect.

Abusive relationship: An abusive relationship involves someone attempting to control and harming the other. Abuse can take on many forms, like physical, emotional, sexual, and digital. It can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, the length or type of relationship.

Relationship Continuum: This concept views relationships as a spectrum from healthy to abusive, not fixed in one category. Healthy relationships might face occasional issues like conflicts, but their strength lies in resolving these problems before they worsen. It's important to address any unhealthy behaviors early to avoid progressing to abuse. Since abusive relationships can develop gradually from unhealthy patterns, staying alert to signs of abuse is important and taking action to address abusive behaviours if/when they do occur is essential.

Equality: In a relationship, equality refers to a balanced and fair partnership where all individuals enjoy mutual respect, shared responsibilities and decision-making, and equal opportunities for personal growth.

Honesty: In a relationship, honesty includes open communication, transparency, and a commitment to truthfulness. Honesty is a necessary key ingredient to a healthy relationship.

Power dynamics: Power dynamics refer to the relationships between individuals where one person holds influence or control over another's decisions, actions, or circumstances. Recognizing and understanding power dynamics is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and ensuring that all parties feel respected and empowered. There are two main types:

  • Built-in power dynamics: These are part of certain relationships, where one individual naturally has authority or influence over the other. Examples include parent-child, teacher-student, employee-boss, and coach-athlete relationships.

  • General power dynamics: These can occur in any relationship where one person exerts control or influence over another. Examples include a friend who always dictates how you spend your free time, a partner who restricts your interactions with certain friends, or a partner who requires approval of social media posts before posting.

Pressure: In a relationship, pressure refers to the expectations, demands, or stressors that can be put on another person. Some examples of pressure in a relationship include:

  • A person presses their partner to not hang out with certain friends

  • A group of friends tells a person to skip class even when they don’t want to

Jealousy: is an emotional response to the perceived threat of losing someone you care about. While some may believe that jealousy is a way to show you care about them, this is not true. Jealous behaviour can be extremely problematic in a relationship, leading to trust issues, conflict, and even danger in extreme cases. Examples include:

  • Your partner constantly wants to check your texts and private messages

  • Your partner overreacts to you hanging out with others when they aren’t around

Dishonesty: In a relationship, this refers to any form of untruthfulness, deceit, or misrepresentation of information. For example, hiding how you are truly feeling, to avoid having to talk about your emotions with your partner.

Breaks in communication: refer to disruptions or lapses in the exchange of information within a relationship and can potentially lead to unhealthy or even abusive dynamics if they intensify. The significance of these interruptions often depends on the context in which they are happening. Some examples include ignoring texts for a long time, blocking contacts on social media, or refusing to tell someone why you are upset with them. 

Inconsiderate behaviour: In a relationship, this refers to actions or attitudes that disregard the feelings, needs, or well-being of others. Examples include: dismissing the emotions of others, disregarding scheduled plans, or refusing to contribute to shared responsibilities.

Accusations: This refers to a claim that an individual has done something wrong. Common accusations in a relationship include:

  • Beliefs that your partner is cheating

  • Ideas that your partner is not interested in the relationship anymore

  • Believing your partner is prioritizing other individuals in their life instead of you

In a relationship, accusations can be extremely harmful and can have potentially negative effects on trust and communication when they are not based on anything. If you have concerns with your partner, it is always best to bring it up in an open and calm conversation, rather than in an accusatory manner. 

Blame shifting: Blame shifting is when an individual falsely turns the blame of an issue onto another, often justifying the blame with unrelated pieces of information. 

Lack of consent: Refers to any instance where consent has not been clearly given. Please see the definition of “Consent” for more information. 

Physical Force: Physical force refers to any instance of using your body physically against others in a non-consensual way. For instance, blocking the doorway to prevent someone from leaving, throwing objects at another person, or kicking, hitting, slapping, or holding someone down are examples of physical force. 

Coercion: In a relationship, coercion refers to the use of force, threats, manipulation, or pressure to control the thoughts, and actions of others. There are many other forms of coercion including:

  • Emotional Coercion: Using guilt or shame to control another person

  • Physical Coercion: Using physical force, or threatening to use physical force against someone in order to have them act or behave in a certain way

  • Sexual Coercion: pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity they don’t wish to participate in, or using sexual activity as a bargaining tool, or as a way to control someone.

Manipulation: Manipulation involves different tactics to hold power over someone and control their thoughts and action. Manipulation relies on psychological tactics, deception, or emotional strategies to influence someone without their full awareness, making them believe that the thoughts and behaviours they have are their own . Some examples of manipulation include:

  • Gaslighting: “I never said that. You fully made that up.”

  • Guilt trips: “I do everything for you. Wouldn’t it be nice for you to just do this one small thing for me?”

  • Flattery: “You’re so good at doing the dishes, even if I tried, I wouldn’t get them as clean as you. Maybe it makes more sense for you to just do them?”

Workshop 1

References:

(1) Definition from Moss, S. (). Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children & Youth in Canada: A Prevention and Early Intervention Toolkit for Parents. Children of the Street Society.

http://www.kristenfrenchcacn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Parents-Toolkit-on-Sexual-Exploitation-and-Trafficking.pdf

(2)  Modified definition of normalizing violence. Source: WCASA. Social Norms Toolkit: The Normalization of Violence: Explaining the connection between the normalization of violence and sexual assault. (n.d.). Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA).

(3) Definition from Moss, S. (). Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children & Youth in Canada: A Prevention and Early Intervention Toolkit for Parents. Children of the Street Society.

http://www.kristenfrenchcacn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Parents-Toolkit-on-Sexual-Exploitation-and-Trafficking.pdf

(4) McGlynn & Rackley. (2016). Image-based Sexual Abuse: More than just ‘Revenge Porn’. University of Birmingham. p.g. 2.

(5) McGlynn & Rackley. (2016). Image-based Sexual Abuse: More than just ‘Revenge Porn’. University of Birmingham. p.g. 2.

(6) Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre. n.d. What is Sexual Violence?. Concordia University.

https://www.concordia.ca/conduct/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-violence.html

(7) Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre. n.d. What is Sexual Violence?. Concordia University.

https://www.concordia.ca/conduct/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-violence.html

(8) Modified from https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/other-types/sexual-coercion

(9) Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre. n.d. What is Sexual Violence?. Concordia University.

https://www.concordia.ca/conduct/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-violence.html

(10) Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre. n.d. What is Sexual Violence?. Concordia University.

https://www.concordia.ca/conduct/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-violence.html

(11) Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre. n.d. What is Sexual Violence?. Concordia University.

https://www.concordia.ca/conduct/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-violence.html

(12) Harvard Law School Halt: Harassment Assault Law Student Team. (2021). How to Avoid Victim Blaming. Harvard Law School Halt.

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