Draw the Line
An interactive mobile platform that helps teens share experiences & find support
Is it okay for your partner to read your texts? Ask for your passwords? Choose your clothes?
For young people navigating their first relationships, the line between care and control is often unclear. While research shows that young people are at significant risk of abuse in their early relationships, they are largely absent from domestic abuse services.
In 2020, we launched a national survey (Talk About Toxic) to find out where they were going for support and advice, and the answers were loud and clear. They are going to their best friends. This invisible frontline of peer support is powerful but under-supported and often poorly informed.
In partnership with the national advocacy charity SafeLives, we set out to co-design a digital insight tool with young people to help others in the UK better identify when they and their best friends are in an abusive relationship.
To better understand the gaps, we needed to talk to teenagers, so we spent several months visiting schools and youth groups around the UK; where young people used role play, created comic strips, and drew chalk lines on the floor to demonstrate where they felt unclear and unsupported. Throughout the discussions, they stated that they wanted to hear young voices and real-life experiences, without the filters of adult and service language.
Professional services have often inadvertently distanced themselves away from young people, with terminology unrelatable and unclear. So any alternative was inevitably going to be best served by the brave and honest real-life testimonies of teenagers.
As lockdown fell upon us, we had to shift the workshops online. We surfaced a remote steering group of young people who guided every detail of the project via Zoom and WhatsApp circles – from the data analysis to the colours and visual identity of a future story platform.
From the comic strips and role-plays of the co-production workshops, came the desire to privately scroll through diverse relationship stories and journeys. From the chalk lines on the assembly halls, the idea emerged of drawing a virtual line on a mobile screen through potentially harmful behaviours in those stories. This would be met with the option of getting to see how other young people and domestic abuse professionals annotated that same content.
From all these ideas and ambitions arose Draw the Line (drawtheline.uk), an interactive mobile platform that hosts real-life relationship stories and enables teenagers to interact creatively with them to gain clarity, share experiences and find support.
Draw the Line has been heralded as a pioneering example of a tool that can simultaneously gather and share genuine community insight.
As young users access the platform, they can learn through reading the stories and getting immediate feedback on where to draw the line in relationships. They can contribute to the platform by sharing their own stories, which are checked by a safeguarding expert before they’re published anonymously. Importantly, they can also seek support.
From every submitted story, we learn more about young people’s relationship language and how they articulate incidences of abuse, which can then feed into policy-making and practice. Every time a young person engages with that story, we learn about where young people are clear and where they’re not, helping the sector better define their advisory support.
Critically, in response to a clear mandate from the steering group, the site doesn’t demand young people’s personal data to access the platform. We ask for confirmation of age to ensure that it remains a young person-focused space, and that’s it. No login, no email signup, no username.
After launching the site on social media in summer 2020, it was accessed by 2500 young people in the first month. We were able to invite anonymous online feedback from users. They told us that it was helping them to better understand relationships, feel heard, and get advice. It de-mystifies the line between control and care. 98% of surveyed users agreed that reading the stories helped them understand the different forms an unhealthy relationship might take, and 95% felt more confident seeking help.
We are now incorporating this learning into a new project with SafeLives that is investing in this invisible frontline of friendship-based advice, and we are actively looking for additional support to continue this pilot and roll the platform out to schools and youth groups, to incorporate both the tool and the stories into young people’s learning curriculums.
We are working with SafeLives, with the support of Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbairn, and the Clothworkers’ Foundation.
Or scan this QR code using the camera on your phone: