Healthy and respectful relationships

Healthy and respectful relationships are an important part of our daily lives and can affect our wellbeing and mental health. There will always be differences between people, but being respectful means you accept them for who they are and vice versa. Conflict and disagreements are a normal part of life, and knowing how to respectfully disagree with someone’s opinion, but not attacking the individual or their personality is critical in both face-to-face and online communication.

Respect for other cultures

At La Trobe, you have a great opportunity to learn, appreciate and find out more about other cultures and beliefs. But cultural differences can also lead to confusion or misunderstanding.

Below are some tips to help you learn more about people of different cultural backgrounds:

  • Spend some time reflecting on your own beliefs and biases, which can help you appreciate other cultural differences
  • Keep an open mind, avoid quick judgements and stereotyping. For example eye contact in one culture may represent respect in one culture and disrespect in another.
  • You can expand your knowledge by doing some reading about other cultures.
  • Learn more about other religions, e.g. visit a mosque or a synagogue.
  • Make an effort to have conversations with people from another culture and listen to their stories and experiences.
  • Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask someone about their customs or beliefs.
  • Take the time to observe other people interacting, so that you can learn and appreciate cultural differences.
  • Have some fun and join our Buddy program at La Trobe.

Healthy relationships

What are the signs of a healthy relationship?

Positive, safe and respectful relationships are important because they’re fundamental to health and wellbeing. While any relationship can go through tricky times, or encounter disagreements, at the end of the day you should always feel safe in any relationship.

Healthy relationships are based on:

Equality – where both people in the relationship feel they can talk about their experiences or speak their minds without feeling worried, scared or criticised.

Mutual respect – for who the other person is. You don’t always have to agree on everything, but you understand and respect each other’s values, opinions and boundaries.

Trust – in each other without needing to control or be controlled.

Good communication – involves talking and listening and being heard.

Separate identities – you can both be yourself, while being together.

Support – for each other in pursuing individual passions and interests.

What are some of the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship?

Video: Love Control: Recognising the early signs of an abusive relationship

Every relationship is different but the things that an unhealthy and abusive relationships have in common are issues of power and control. Some of the signs that might flag that your relationship is not healthy and that your partner is being abusive include:

  • Checking of your phone, emails or social networks without your permission
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Constant belittling or put-downs
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Constant mood swings so you feel like you are 'walking on eggshells' most of the time.
  • Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what you can and cannot do, who you can and cannot see
  • Financial control over how you spend money
  • Pressuring you to have sex

See the video below for more information on the early signs of an abusive relationship.

If you concerned about issues in your relationship then you should seek support and advice:

Visit The Line: An online resource and forum for young people that focuses on relationships and issues that may arise

On campus: Student Counselling

Off campus: 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) 24hrs

Respect online

Unfortunately more and more disrespect and abuse is happening online.  Learn how to identify and support yourself and others who are being impacted by online abuse.

Check out the eSafety Commissioner’s webpage to identify and respond to cyber abuse, cyberbullying and image-based abuse.

Also have a look at this video produced by Gender Equity Victoria about how we can all contribute to better online behaviour:

If you are concerned or have seen or received online abuse, contact our Speak Up service

Sexual consent is a mutual and voluntary decision between participants in which everyone involved freely agrees and voluntarily decides to participate in sexual activity. The key to knowing if you have consent is good communication.

Cartoon of an aeroplane flying a banner saying 'Are you enjoying this' with two stick figures in an embrace below.

Sex without consent and without free agreement is not good sex, it’s not even sex – it’s sexual assault

Ensure you fully understand consent:

Get an Enthusiastic 'Yes': You should be no doubt that the other person absolutely wants to be part of whatever is on offer. That includes both verbal saying ‘yes’ and the non-verbal signs i.e. that their body language is clearly indicating they want to participate.

Consent is ongoing: Consent is an ongoing conversation. A person can change their mind at any stage. Saying yes to one type of sexual act does not mean a blanket yes to all types of sexual activity. You need to continue to check in with your partner.

Check the non-verbal signs: Is the person comfortable and indicating with non-verbal signs that they want to participate in that type of sexual activity? If unsure, always ask them, as sometimes people feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ or uncomfortable saying ‘no.’ If they still seem uncomfortable stop and talk to them about what they want/enjoy.

Respect the person’s boundaries: Do not make fun of or try to continue to pressure them to change their mind. Accept their decision.

A person cannot give consent if they:

  • Did not do or say anything to indicate consent
  • Feel threatened or afraid
  • Are being pressured into having sex or restrained against their wishes
  • Are intoxicated due to drugs or alcohol to the point they cannot give clear consent
  • Are asleep, unconscious or semi-conscious. A sleeping person cannot give consent even if they agreed to the sexual activity before they fell asleep
  • Are mistaken about the nature of the act or the identity of the person they are having sex with
  • Are under the age of consent. The age of consent varies between states. In Victoria that is usually 16 years of age but this can vary if one of the parties is in a supervisory relationship. Check out the legal facts here.

To fully understand consent, check out some great articles from The Line:

The Module Consent Matters: Boundaries Respect and Positive Intervention

All students are expected to complete the Consent Matters module on your LMS or via accommodation services. The aim of this module is to:

  • help support you form healthy and respectful relationships
  • understand what consent looks like and how to communicate what you want
  • understand when consent cannot be given
  • learn how to be a positive bystander and intervene safely in a situation where consent is not present

If you are concerned or have seen or received any kind of abuse contact our Speak Up service.

Connect with Speak Up