Our Voice: Me+You=4Eva the Professionals Reaction

After attending the national safeguarding conference in Dewsbury, Kirklees last week, Company Director Krystal Keeley takes the opportunity to reflect on the journey of Me+You=4Eva.  More specifically around the varied reactions and feedback we receive from the professionals that have seen it.

When at a conference I’m always anxious to show our early intervention project Me+You=4Eva. Not because of the setting or feedback but because I know one comment will always make an appearance from a delegate. “Joe wouldn’t say Sorry, Jess wouldn’t leave”

The characters they are referring to are locked in a teenage romance that unfolds itself to be a troubled relationship. Joe’s behaviour includes isolating Jessica’s support network, checking her phone, ridiculing her aspirations and changing the way she looks.  Jess’s includes not being able to recognise or identify this behaviour according to the new government definition as Domestic Abuse. It is her friend Becky that desperately attempts to conclude Joe’s behaviour and support her friend. At the end Joe’s behaviour is caught by Becky and Jessica finds the strength to end what she now recognises is an unhealthy relationship. Joe apologises for his behaviour and the play ends on a positive note.

The positive ending is what professionals often conclude as unrealistic. I can appreciate where they conclude this from. Many of whom work with people who experience domestic abuse every day, people who never find the courage to stand up to their partner and people that for whatever circumstance or reason never stop abusing. If I was to witness this behaviour every day I too would conclude the ending of Me+You=4Eva a far cry from the current picture. However this comment always leads me to remember what Me+You=4Eva stands for, what it’s aims and intentions are.

The truth is if we never let the character of Joe redeem himself for his actions what would be the final message that the young people took from the play? Some I imagine in my head would be “He’s a bad person” or “He will never change”. Instead the current ending sparks discussions that tend to be more hopeful for Joe as they believe he acknowledges his mistakes which indicate he knows he needs to change.

Yes the 1 in 4 domestic abuse statistics haunts us but what we are trying to do here is call for a change. A change in attitude amongst the future generation so that they grow up to form a more positive outlook and approach on the relationships they have. Early intervention work requires all projects to have a different outlook on the current stage of the issue. This outlook can potentially reduce the devastating amount of people affected by domestic abuse. If we strive to embed tolerance, expectations and self confidence within young people this could result in the 1 in 4 figure becoming drastically reduced. An aim that inspires us to visit thousands more young people with the play.

Nature or nurture is the ongoing debate and for this particular issue it’s the nurture part we have a key role in helping develop or and support young people.

Some may say it’s unrealistic today; we here at Unique Voice say it’s essential for inspiring the next generation in the future.