The Mates & Dates programme applies to everyone, whether they are dating or not. It covers all kinds of relationships such as friendships and those with your family.

What is sexual and dating violence?

Sexual violence is anything sexual that happens to you without your consent.

That includes:

  • having someone say or do unwanted sexual things to you
  • unwanted touching and kissing
  • being made to watch, pose for or act in pornography
  • someone showing their genitals to you
  • rape, attempted rape or the threat of rape
  • any sexual act with penetration (unlawful sexual connection)
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual coercion.

Dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behaviour in a romantic relationship. It could be verbal, emotional, physical or sexual and can happen in person, online or via text. It can occur in straight or gay relationships.

Healthy vs unhealthy relationships

Healthy relationships involve:

  • communication
  • negotiation
  • consent.

They are respectful and positive relationships – from family and friendships to dating relationships.

Unhealthy relationships involve behaviour that is:

  • controlling
  • harmful
  • abusive.

They are disrespectful and negative and can leave you feeling sad or afraid.

What is consent?

  • Agreeing to something or giving or getting permission for something.
  • Consenting to sexual activity means that a person knows what they’re doing, they want to do it and they can stop at any time.
  • Consent is impossible when someone is under 16, drunk or on drugs, or being coerced, pressured or forced.
  • If someone consents to one thing, that doesn't mean they're consenting to anything and everything, just to that one thing.
  • Consent can be taken back – everyone gets to change their mind at any time, including after saying yes.

Talking about the hard stuff and keeping safe

We can all learn new ways to have healthy relationships, and that’s what Mates & Dates is about.

Mates & Dates involves talking about stuff that might be challenging. You might know someone who has experienced an unhealthy relationship or experienced one yourself.

It might also make you think about making mistakes and things you’ve done that you later regretted.

The Mates & Dates facilitators will make sure everyone is okay during those discussions and will encourage you to do whatever you need to do to feel safe.

We need to talk about the hard stuff because it’s important that everyone knows the impact, and how to identify unhealthy behaviour, abuse and harmful situations.

Knowing what an unhealthy relationship is means we can ask for help if something harmful is happening to us or to someone we know. It also means we can ask for help if we recognise unhealthy behaviours in ourselves.

Where to go for help

If you want to talk to someone about sexual violence you or someone you know has experienced go to TOAH-NNEST (external site) for a list of local specialist services for victims, families and people causing harm.

For more information about where to seek help about dating violence, including local services, go to It’s not OK (external site).

Following sexual assault or abuse, you can contact ACC’s Sensitive Claims Unit confidentially on 0800 735 566.

You can also check out:

Updated: 26 February 2016

Reviewed: 16 February 2016