At school for the difference between love and abuse

They seem a little embarrassed, even if they do not admit it. They are used. They want their lover to have long hair, be faithful, loving or have character. They want him to be attentive, handsome, respectful or “good fun”. No, these young people aged 14 to 15 do not order Santa to find a soulmate. The adventure is far away. Love is near. It’s even central.

We are on the full Saxon orienteering cycle on the Valais plain. Sitting in class, with their eyes still tired of the dim light on a foggy Monday morning, the students gently step into a reality that is nonetheless dark. Today we come to talk to them about violence in the couple. Anne Remy Tritz and Laurent Guérin, their “teachers” for a morning, are speakers for the SIPE centers (Sexuality, Information, Prevention, Education). He is a police officer, she is a teacher of sexual health. Together, they present the program “Dating and Respect for Each Other” for four lesson periods. The latter aims to prevent abusive behavior in young people’s romantic relationships. It fits perfectly within the framework of 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Also read: Domestic violence: A story of an endless struggle

Knowing what you want is the foundation

Back to wish lists. “What’s important to you in a relationship? What do you imagine others think they want in a relationship? The questions are crucial. To know what you want is to know what you do not want to understand we know by listening to Anne Remy Tritz. Divided into two groups – the girls on one side, the boys on the other – the young people dig, laugh, write down. “The girls still want a guy who has some money …” , assures a teenager.A few shots point.The speakers have predicted the blow.Fast, shed light on prejudices and gender stereotypes.

“It’s time to break the mood,” says Laurent Guérin substantially. On the board black numbers. Battle. “More than 19,700 police interventions took place in Switzerland in 2019 for domestic violence. Ten thousand offenses relate to relationships.” And it continues. “A study in Neuchâtel shows that 60% of young couples aged 15 to 16 say they are victims of violence. On average, 1 in 2 (girls and boys) think they are controlled by their partner. The class seems to realize that violence goes beyond beatings and rapes. That it can interfere in heads, in smartphones, in words.

Also read: More than 40% of women say they have suffered from domestic violence

Know what abuse is

Exactly how to define – and therefore recognize – abuse? This is the next exercise. On plastic cards, two scenarios. One involves a love affair between two men, a sign that LGBTQIA + inclusivity has its place in the Course. Students try to distinguish abusive behavior from those that are “heartbreaking.” Sometimes it seems like violence gets wrapped up in love.

Everything is very concrete. The class gets up. Laurent Guérin and Anne Remy Tritz showed traffic lights in three areas of the room: red, orange, green. Students facing specific situations that may arise as a couple are invited to let themselves be controlled by their emotions and move in front of the corresponding fire. The goal? Discover the warning signs of violence, red is the most worrying. “He often makes fun of me”, “I am regularly afraid of his reactions when I put my family in front of him or her” … Teenagers move around and discover their own inner marker. They will also learn that the outer marker colors the alarm red when there is coercion, physical or verbal violence, control, isolation, repetition, and devaluation. Through a prevention film, they also wonder how to help friends who are victims or perpetrators of abusive behavior.

Also read: “To provide good media coverage of feminicide and thus the escalation of violence is to save lives”

The vicious “cycle” of domestic violence

Suddenly, on the board, the “cycle of domestic violence” appears. A key moment in the program. Laurent Guérin suggests by writing: “There are physical blows. “Bom.” Then a phase of forgiveness and justification in which the author apologizes. Then all is well again, we love each other. Then the tension rises and the blows return. The best way to prevent the cycle from continuing is to say stop before the “boom”. The policeman also lets go: “Statistically, you have experienced this. Near or far. Your effect may be affected. And the unbearable number is falling: a woman dies every two weeks in Switzerland. “Oh yeah ?!” a student responds in amazement. The course concludes with an obviously very instructive module on the exchange of nude pictures on the networks (these pictures or videos of a sexual or intimate nature).

The alarm rings. Before running after their bus or eating their dinner, some students share their feelings with us. Capucine admits that her way of looking at relationships has changed with the course, “but positively”: “I will try not to cause harm nor to be a victim of it.” For her friend Amélie, the announced statistics were “a shock”: “It’s much more than I thought. It bothers me to have to assimilate this information. This course helped me know what the law says, where my boundaries are, where the abuse is and what I should do if it happens. ” In the end, do all these young Valaisans still want to fall in love? They say yes. Healthy love is safe.

Mandatory in Valais and Jura

The “Dating and Respect for Each Other” prevention program is inspired by the American “Safe Dates” project. Radix, the Swiss Foundation for Health, manages the implementation in the cantons. It is now compulsory in Valais and Jura, where all students in the orientation cycles take it. The other French-speaking cantons offer all sessions.

Are you worried about domestic violence?

Victim Support website in Switzerland

Site of Violence what to do

The website of DAO, the umbrella organization of reception centers


The “Dust” podcast from the Violence Que faire association, which combines victim testimonies with expert contributions.

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