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You can raise your standards, girls

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Ask some young girls for a description of what they are looking for in a potential boyfriend and you will likely hear words like “cute”, “popular” and “someone with swag”.

Laurie Shiell, the executive director of the Centre Against Abuse, is looking to help girls and women raise their standards with a new campaign, called #WhatIsLove, launched in conjunction with October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

By speaking with young girls at the Island's senior schools and youth groups, and reaching the wider public through social media and posters set up throughout the Hamilton area, the centre is hoping to challenge unhealthy mindsets on what constitutes love.

“We are trying to get young girls to see that while being attracted to a guy with tattoos and swag might be age appropriate now, it might not be what they want in a future partner.

“We are trying to bring them into a mindset early so they can raise their standards on what constitutes love. If that boy you like has all these other girls, we want to challenge them to think: ‘Do I really want that or do I want to be the special one?”

Hafid James, the creative director for the campaign, came up with the idea for #WhatIsLove after hearing the 1993 hit song ‘What Is Love, Baby Don't Hurt Me No More' while at an airport.

He hopes the advertising blitz will get women to start asking questions about the relationships they are in and whether they are really based on love, respect and kindness.

“If anything I would hope women set their standards higher,” he said. “If women know they should be treated like queens then it greatly reduces the chances of them getting in or staying in an abusive relationship. Don't settle and hopefully this will cause men to have to step up and raise their own personal standards knowing women won't just accept anything.”

While this campaign focuses on girls and women, Ms Shiell said they are hoping the effects will carry over to men and boys.

She believes there is value in teaching both males and females the importance of loving yourself and demanding that anyone who chooses to step into your personal life show you that same honour and respect.

“These unhealthy behaviours definitely go both ways because if you were not shown love growing up, whether male or female, unless you make a concerted effort to change you are going to continue those patterns in your own relationships.

“A lot of behaviours are learned, so unless we ourselves make an effort to change the situation will not get better,” she said.

Ms Shiell will be partnering with Pastor Maria Seaman, of Shekinah Worship Ministries, and nutrition and lifestyle coach Preston James, to go into schools and other youth organisations and get a dialogue started on #WhatIsLove.

She said it's important for young people to know that if they are not being honoured and their personal boundaries are being disrespected, that is not a healthy love.

In some cases she finds young girls have a skewed idea of what love is — with some telling her they see jealousy as a sign that a boy loves them, when it's really possessiveness.

She will also be speaking to young girls about chivalry and how they can help to reinforce those healthy behaviours back into society. “We are not saying that women can't do anything for themselves, but we are trying to encourage guys to open the door or pull out that chair for you and encouraging girls to value those behaviours and not turn them down.

“We have heard stories from men who try and open the door for a woman and the woman will start a fight with them. Or a man will try and compliment a woman and she will say something like ‘This old thing?'. Women need to receive that when someone is being genuine.”

The posters, set up at strategic locations around the city, are holograms and will show two different images depending on what angle you are looking from. One poster shows a young girl reading an unkind message from her boyfriend at one angle, while another shows the same girl reading a love letter.

“At the end of the day the goal of the whole campaign is to prevent continuous emotional, physical and verbal abuse as well as other issues,” Ms Shiell said.

“The first question we want people to consider is ‘do I love myself' because if we love ourselves then we are not going to accept someone else coming into our space and treating us in a way we don't deserve.”

The campaign is sponsored by Dion Smith, of Smith Technologies, and Reverend Clarke Minors, of Miracle Temple First Church of God.

For more information on the #WhatIsLove campaign visit Twitter: @CAA_Bermuda or Centre's Facebook page, where you can upload quotes or pictures on your definition of love.

You can also visit the centre's website, to find out about other events happening for October's Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. Some offerings include an anger management class for women and an eight-week domestic violence awareness and sexual assault awareness session, hosted in conjunction with Women's Resource Centre.

Useful website: www.centreagainstabuse.bm

Laurie Shiell: Executive director of the Centre Against Abuse
Why? You can do better, says the Centre Against Abuse

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Published October 08, 2013 at 9:36 am (Updated October 08, 2013 at 9:36 am)

You can raise your standards, girls

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