Healthy & Safe Relationships

We know there are many types of relationships.  This page focuses on romantic or sexual relationships.  Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect. Here are some great resources to help you make sure your relationships are healthy, get the facts on consent, and learn to recognize sexual assault and intimate partner violence (often called dating violence or abuse).

Need help now? You can reach Between Friends, 24/7 at 800-603-HELP (4357)

Healthy Relationships

Every relationship is unique—just like every person is an individual. But there are things they all have in common: good communication, mutual respect, and honesty, for a start.  Sometimes, unhealthy relationships can be an indicator of  human trafficking. If you’re looking for ways to improve your relationships, there’s lots of help here:


Consent means having or giving permission for something to happen. It begins with communication and is a critical part of any healthy sexual encounter. It may seem awkward to talk about it, but it’s the only way for people to respect each other’s boundaries. The State of Illinois has laws about consent that punish people who take advantage of others sexually, but these laws can vary from state to state. Read on to learn more.

Sexual Violence & Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can be one part of intimate partner violence or an unhealthy relationship, or it can happen outside of a relationship. Every 2 minutes, someone, somewhere in America is sexually assaulted. It can happen to anyone: children, teens, adults, elders and people of all genders. If you or someone you know has been attacked, hurt, or taken advantage of, you can get help. No one should go through it alone.

Gender Norms

From a young age, we may be taught that we should look or act a certain way because we are male or female: males should be masculine and females should be feminine. Many people think of femininity as a combination of being delicate, a caretaker, and attractive; while they understand masculinity as a combination of being strong, emotionally tough, aggressive, and sexual. These expectations are called gender norms. What you may not know is that there is a link between gender norms and unhealthy relationships and unsafe sex (e.g., not using condoms or birth control). Learn more about gender norms here.

Rape is an act of power and control, not sexual urges.

Most people experience sexual urges, but most people don’t commit sexual assault.

Most rape cases are never reported to police.

There are many reasons people choose not to report a sexual assault. Someone may be afraid, or believe it’s not important enough to report. Support is out there, and assault is never ok.

No one should have sex unless they want to.

It’s never ok to pressure someone into sex, and being in a relationship does NOT mean you owe anyone sex.

Protect your privacy.

Pictures or videos you send to someone can be forwarded to friends and posted online.

Men and boys are victims of sexual assault.

Don’t assume it’s always women and girls. Stereotypes of masculinity may make it harder for males to come forward.

Perpetrators are most likely an acquaintance or a family member rather than a stranger.

No one is “asking for it” by the way they dress.

There is no justification for sexual assault or abuse. Blaming the victim is wrong.

Relationships can be unhealthy or abusive without including any kind of physical violence.

Someone can be a victim of intimate partner violence without their partner ever touching them.  Many times, abuse starts as emotional or psychological and only becomes physical later.

Just because someone doesn’t say “no,” doesn’t mean they’re saying “yes.”

The absence of the word “no” never means “yes.” Someone who is drunk or high might not be able to give consent.

False rape accusations are extremely rare.

In fact, research has shown that well over 90% of reported sexual assault accusations are legitimate.