Every year, for the past 4 years, the SOS CAN program has hosted an Increase the Peace: Youth symposium. The symposium was designed as a proactive approach to gun violence. The hope is that the attendees walk away with tools to handle modern day pressures and situations without turning to violent means.

This year, Ms. G, the Youth and Community Clinician, facilitated a workshop about Healthy Relationships and her audience was an intergenerational group of men and women. The session started with asking the group to define and brainstorm adjectives that they correlate with the terms healthy, unhealthy and abusive. During this conversation they were able to discuss the elements that differentiate the different categories from one another and also clarify why or why not particular actions or adverbs may not fit a particular category.

The groups were split into pairs, each having one or two scenarios to discuss and determine if the scenarios fall into one of the healthy, unhealthy, or abusive categories. Once the groups finalized their decisions, they shared out their scenarios with the larger group and gave their final answer to the category the scenario should be placed in. The facilitator then asked the audience if they agreed or disagreed with the groups decision and from that dialogues ensued.

Due to the melting pot of ages and experiences in the room, there were a variety of perspectives on certain topics. For example, is it okay for a couple to have one another’s passwords to their phone and/or social media accounts? 98% of the room stated “No way.” However one lady explained how her family (husband, wife and children) have passcodes to one another’s phones and the reason why they do. We agreed to disagree, however also acknowledged that there are scenarios that change based on age and relationship status (married versus dating). The room was a safe space for the teens and adults to express their thoughts openly while both groups respectfully challenging one another.

All relationships can be challenging, however it is important to be mindful of the difference if the relationship is unhealthy and abusive. One of the scenarios was about a man that decided when, where and what time the couple would go out. The scenario indicated that the lady did not like making decisions anyway and so the set up worked for her. Initially, there were group members that thought it was fine, however others brought up the concern that the guy has full control of the couples outings. Questions such as: what would happen if she wanted to make a decision? Or in what other ways does the guy control the relationship?

A take away from the workshop was that although situations seem initially healthy, there are key details to pay attention to that reveals that a relationship can not only be unhealthy, but borderline abusive. The workshop ended in good spirits with natural dialogue amongst the intergenerational participants.