Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

Let’s Be Real: Listening to Real Talk

July 2017 marked the one year anniversary of Let’s Be Real, a movement by young people for young people about relationships. To share our learnings from a year of movement-making and celebrate the accomplishments of the youth who drive it, Break the Cycle staff members reflects on their experiences working with Let’s Be Real in a 4 part blog series.

Tonjie Reese, Break the Cycle’s Leadership & Engagement Coordinator, continues the series with a reflection on how Let’s Be Real approaches healthy relationship education.

Since we’ve started Let’s Be Real, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with young people all across the country and hear their relationship realities. Hosting Real Talks has by far been one of the best parts of my job. Every day, young people are dealing with relationships at every level. We could just give information about dating abuse and healthy relationships, but we know that relationships aren’t always clear-cut. No matter if it’s a crush, hook up, or a long distance relationship, young people need a space to talk about their experiences; Real Talks provide that space. What is a Real Talk? It’s a casual conversation about relationships that give us the opportunity to provide education in a way that relates specifically to the issues and scenarios young people bring up, like dealing with jealousy or if they should break up with their partner.

During Real Talks we ask questions in a random order to create a sense of excitement. My favorite question is, “Tell a story about your first crush,” because it allows me to get a sense of where the group’s first experiences with “dating” started. For some, it was in elementary school when liking someone meant thinking someone was cute, and wanting to be around them all the time. For others, it happened when they were a bit older and ended with their first heartbreak. Another question we always ask is, “What does your perfect relationship look like?” This question is meant to spark thoughts about healthy relationships, and start to create the boundaries or non-negotiables that can help us reach the healthy partnerships we’ve been dreaming of. I believe the more we think about the good “stuff” in relationships, the better chance we have to recognize the bad stuff.

Participants in Real Talks are always commenting on how much they love the relaxed nature of Real Talks because it allows them to speak freely about subjects that aren’t always talked about. Because of the trust developed in Real Talks, I’ve been able to hear stories, offer support, and learn how culture influences the way we view dating and relationships from young people all across the country. My hope is that more community partners and young people will host their own Real Talks and realize that healthy relationship education can be fun and casual, while still inspiring true learning among participants! When community partners, like schools, clubs, or non-profits, host a Real Talk with young people in their community, they will inspire and educate the participants, AND learn what young people really want to learn about relationships and dating. For instance, Break the Cycle is inspired to create new content and projects for Let’s Be Real members based on the information we hear from young people at Real Talks. The more young people that know healthy relationship skills, the more programming we can create that’s led by young people, the better chance we have to create a culture without abuse.

Want to learn more about Real Talks? Check out #BTCRealTalk on Twitter to view some of our previous Real Talk live tweets! If you are interested in hosting a Real Talk, reach out to me (Tonjie), at

The Let’s Be Real movement needs you. Join us!

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the blog series on LBR’s Online Movement.