Is This Violence? At First, You Might Not Think So…

This is an incredible website (https://itsnotviolent.com) by the government of Quebec (but the content’s in English, so not to worry, non-Francophones) that gives real-world examples of relationship violence in the frame of a text conversation between a young person and their romantic partner. The graphic design conveys a fun, emoji-style interface…but the content is much, much darker.

In each example, you try and navigate a conversation with your bullying significant other who compels you to do things like have sex or send nudes or give them money or text them every half-hour. It’s really disturbing, which is actually, hear me out, a good thing. It sticks with you. The drawings and the artwork are so cute, the style is so approachable, but it hides something sinister. Even though it’s presented in a “choose your own adventure” format, you really can’t win. The person you’re texting (who I imagined was a boy, because I figure this is mostly geared toward teenage girls and young women, but I guess it could cut either way, if you think about it) threatens you, yells at you, cusses you out and then, eventually, “leaves” you. The scenarios then explain why the conversation you just had was a “violent” one. Even if you’re never assaulted or threatened with physical harm, you are being extorted and threatened in other ways. It might feel frustrating…which is kind of the point. There’s no winning with violent-minded people. They will keep chipping away at you and, if they get the opportunity, they’ll harm you. The truth is ugly. But it’s still the truth.

If you have a young woman in your life who is of dating age and you want her to understand what to put up with and what to walk away from, I think this game would be very valuable. At every turn, they offer resources to help further educate the user and to assist them if they feel endangered in their relationship. Kudos to the designers and developers who came up with it, and here’s hoping the message sinks in with young people, and especially young women, who need it.