Being in a relationship should be fun, exciting and safe. Whether you are in your first relationship or your third, respecting each other is really important.

Below is lots of information about good and bad relationships, forced marriage, help and advice

What is a good relationship?

A good relationship means trusting each other and being able to take things at your own pace. Talk to each other and be open and honest and respect each other’s opinions.

Being good friends is an important part of a caring relationship as well as having the freedom to do things that you want and spend time with the people you want to. It’s important to have your own interests but also some shared interests so you can have fun together.

Most importantly you should feel safe, secure and happy.

What is a bad relationship?

This is probably the opposite to the above and could include some or all of the things below.

Your partner:

  • is verbally aggressive or threatens to hurt you
  • bullies you and makes you feel bad
  • gets angry or jealous when you talk to other people
  • makes you do things you don’t want to
  • blackmails you or threatens you
  • hurts you, your friends, family, pets or property
  • posts horrible things about you online or sends private pictures of you to others (See our page on sexting)
  • always blames you
  • stops you seeing your friends or family
  • makes you feel afraid
  • teases, bullies and puts you down
  • hits you
  • embarrasses you in front of others

If any of the above is happening to you, remember that it’s not your fault. You need to talk to someone about it because it’s not right

Where can I get advice?

There are people and helplines you can talk to confidentially – either about a bad relationship you or a friend are in or if you are worried about your own behaviour.  Use our search directory at the bottom of this page to find a service in Bristol who can help.

You don’t have to be living with someone for the relationship to be abusive. Abuse can happen in a relationship between a man and a woman, between two men, or between two women and can even happen between friends It doesn’t have to be physical abuse for it to be domestic abuse – it might be emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or psychological abuse. This is never OK and you don’t have to suffer alone.

The BAVA website has lots more information about abusive relationships and local services that can help.

What is sexual exploitation?

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Sexual exploitation can be hard to recognise because you often believe you’re in a good relationship with the person – or people – who want to abuse your trust in them.

It could be a friend, or group of friends. It could be someone you think of as a boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be a person or a new group of people you’ve only just got to know. It could be someone you’ve talked to online.

But whoever it is, they could use clever ways to take advantage of your relationship – and that means you can be harmed almost before you know what’s going on. For example, someone might give you money, drugs, alcohol, gifts or somewhere to stay and then force you to do one or more of these things in return:

  • Have sex with them
  • Do something sexual to them
  • Be touched inappropriately, in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Look at sexual images – including films or pictures
  • Watch them do something sexual, including having sex or touching themselves sexually.

That’s why it’s so important to look out for the warning signs that someone’s behaviour towards you may not be all it seems.

What if I think me or a friend has / is being exploited?

If you are worried about a situation that you or a friend is in, talk to an adult that you trust as soon as you can. People who can help you include anyone at a 4YP clinic or doctor’s surgery, teachers, parents, carers and social workers.

You may also want to contact one of Barnardo’s specialist sexual exploitation projects for advice, or to talk to someone about what you’ve been through. The one in Bristol is called BASE.

You can also call Child Line on 0800 11 11.

Read more in this helpful leaflet from Barnardos.

What is a Forced marriage?

A forced marriage is when the bride or groom is pressurised into getting married and one or both parties have no choice. Pressure and abuse is used to make them marry.  This pressure can be varied and involve physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.

Is an arranged marriage the same as a forced marriage?

No. An arranged marriage is when the families are involved in helping to choose the marriage partner, but it is the choice of both the bride and groom whether they want to get married or not. A forced marriage is when they have no choice or feel that they have no choice.

Why does forced marriage take place?

Forced marriage takes place in countries all around the world, and is not something which is practiced by only one community. There are many reasons given for why this takes place such as:

  • Custom
  • Maintaining ‘honour’
  • Controlling someone’s sexuality and preventing them from being ‘promiscuous’
  • Preventing ‘unwanted’ behaviour (such as drug/alcohol abuse)
  • Making someone marry to get access to money
  • Preserving cultural or religious traditions
  • Preventing ‘unsuitable’ relationships e.g. outside of ethnic/religious or cultural groups
  • Assisting claims for UK residence and citizenship

Who does is affect?

Forced marriage affects both men and women, of different ages, communities and backgrounds.  Forced marriage is not a ‘cultural or religious’ issue, and to discuss it as such denies a voice to those from other communities who have experienced it.

Does my religion mean that I have to go through with a forced marriage?

No. All major religions believe that everyone has the right to decide who they marry and should not be married to someone against their will.

What to do if you are at risk:

If you or anyone you know thinks they are at risk of being forced into a marriage, it is important that you tell a trusted adult like a teacher as soon as possible and contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) on 020 7008 0151. There are ways that you can be protected so that you don’t have to go through with the marriage and you can get confidential help and advice.

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