Your Best Friend
Co-creating support resources for young friends in toxic relationships
Abuse and toxic behaviour are endemic in young relationships. But where do you go when you don’t hear your story reflected anywhere else? Who do you turn to when you can’t relate to the adult language of professional spaces and your teachers and family don’t feel like your first point of call? For young people, it is their best friends that fill this gap.
As part of a national consortium of 11 organisations, we’ve joined SafeLives to help young people better articulate their relationships and support one another to spot and tackle abusive and toxic behaviour.
My best friend has gone out with someone and drifted away from us completely…he used to comment on her body; about how it was fat and that. But like, I can just remember that I was so helpless, I couldn’t do anything because I think we were only about like fourteen. I, I didn’t have any knowledge, I didn’t have any education on how to, on where to go if someone’s going through a really unhealthy relationship and that – Young person, 17.
The Your Best Friend project continues to build on the powerful narrative work of drawtheline.uk – an interactive mobile platform we co-created with young people in 2020 that uses community journalism and personal stories to help others better identify when they and their best friends are in a toxic relationship.
There is a glaring absence of teens in domestic abuse services, despite their higher risk of abuse in their early relationships. To better understand this, we ran a national survey – Talk About Toxic – that attracted 500+ responses from young people across the country. Many shared stories of harm experienced in their relationships. Not only did they say they don’t relate to the term ‘domestic’ or ‘abuse’, but they also told us that instead of going online, to their teachers or other adults, they were going to their best friends.
Best friends, other young people, sometimes as young as 12 and 13, are thereby forming an invisible line in the battle against relationship-based violence. We need to strengthen these frontlines by ensuring they have both the language and the signposting to be able to help their friends spot abuse and seek support.
Radar joined this consortium as a specialist in digital storytelling and to help young people find the right solution to ensure their voices and experiences are heard.
We’re in the early stages of this consortium, and as an enquiry-based project, we are going into it with equal amounts of ambition and uncertainty. The first stage is focused on deep listening and building a network of youth co-producers up around the work. We are particularly working to create a safe space for young disabled women, girls and non-binary people ages 13-24 to ponder on this enquiry and to try and answer it themselves.
With a diversity of national partners, the consortium reaches the groups that are the least heard in our national conversations. This includes young Muslim teenagers and LGBTQI+ young people who often don’t see themselves represented in the service language or support communication materials and, at times, find themselves blocked by cultural perceptions
In July 2021, we released a national survey that set out to gather lived experiences around supporting friends. From this, we found that 71% of young people have spotted behaviours that worry them in friends’ relationships, and 78% said fear would stop them from talking to a friend about this. To better support this invisible frontline, we then moved into the co-creation phase of the project and have been working with a steering group of young people who have brainstormed ideas and up-voted on the resources that they’d like to see made (see their ideas here).
The Your Best Friend fund launched in November 2021 and this group will be helping award grants to grassroots and youth organisations to take these ideas forward, ready for the campaign launch in early 2022.
Find out more about Draw the Line here
Or visit the mobile platform yourself using the QR code below
SafeLives, Galop, Hafan Cymru, Muslim Youth Helpline, PODS, Lancashire BME Network, Llamau, The Mix, Yana, Super Being Labs