11 Aug, 2010 Last updated: 08 Dec, 2014

A new website for young people which answers the awkward questions about sex, relationships, abuse, sexual harassment and online relationships in the digital age was launched in Melbourne today.

A new website for young people which answers the awkward questions about sex, relationships, abuse, sexual harassment and online relationships in the digital age was launched in Melbourne today.

Love: the good, the bad and the ugly is based upon young people’s stories about modern relationships. It broaches topics like – am I ready for sex?, should I be friends with my ex?, online dating tips, how to ask someone out, or how to end it when the relationship isn’t working.

It even looks at the implications of dating someone older, what to do if you fall in love with the teacher, how to diplomatically reject a date offer and what to do about a jealous, possessive or violent lover.

The website is an initiative of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) and VicHealth, through the Partners in Prevention program with the aim of preventing violence against women.

Since 1998, the DVRCV has collected more than 1000 real stories from young people about abuse in their relationships and their advice for others. These real life accounts have been translated into 120 pages of no holds barred advice, interactive diaries and quizzes.

Partners in Prevention project leader Kiri Bear said the website is a safe, interactive and informative space for young people to get the facts without embarrassment.

“This site is designed to give advice on what a good relationship feels like and working through the grey areas of control in relationships like jealousy, keeping tabs, pressure for sex and what to do if things get ugly,” Ms Bear said.

“Although they might seem like signs of love, in fact extreme jealousy and possessiveness are warning signs of violent or abusive behaviour and sometimes young people need a bit of guidance to realise the difference.

“It also addresses the risks of meeting people online, sending sexy photographs or ‘sexting’ and online stalking and harassment, but acknowledges that there can be benefits to forming relationships through new media, too.”

Dr Melanie Heenan, Manager of VicHealth’s Preventing Violence Against Women program, said it is appalling that by Year 10 almost a third of young women have had sex forced upon them by a partner.

“It is disturbing just how many young people say they don’t know what a healthy relationship is, and confuse behaviours that are really about control and abuse of power as signs of love and commitment,” she said.

“Unfortunately, research also shows that young people, particularly young men, are sometimes unclear about what constitutes sexual assault and domestic violence, and are more likely to justify or trivialise violence against women.

“This website is about empowering young people to value relationships based on mutual respect, where their partner’s decisions and choices are respected, and where care is taken not to damage confidence and feelings of self-worth.”

Short films have been developed exclusively for the website about young women who experienced violence in their relationship and a booklet based on the site will be distributed to secondary schools in Victoria.