Lancer Spotlight 2/2/23: Hartley House speaker starts a conversation on managing healthy relationships


Alexa Waser

Jenn Melcalf, a prevention manager from Hartley House, gives students a presenation about healthy relationships during PREP.

by Alexa Waser and Jimena Garjera

On January 30, during PREP, Linganore High School (LHS) students gathered in the auditorium to learn how to identify the differences between healthy and toxic relationships.

Jenn Melcalf, a prevention manager from the Heartly House, shared a presentation on how to recognize toxic patterns and unacceptable behaviors from partners.

Heartly house is a Frederick County, Md organization created in 1979 whose mission is to end sexual assault, human trafficking and child abuse and to provide victims with safety, shelter and supportive services.

They provide support groups for adolescents and adults that have been sexually assaulted. They also work with the Frederick Center, LGBTQ youth to help with human trafficking in Frederick.

Linganore Behavioral Support Specialist Rebecca Howes reached out to Heartly House after a survey was conducted during the beginning of the year in which students talked about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Howes explained that she has worked with a number of students “that have been in violent relationships” and thinks that hearing from professionals and learning more about unhealthy relationships is really important for students. 

Dating violence and toxic behaviors are a huge problem among teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 2019 reported that about 1 in 12 US High School students have experienced dating violence.

Melcalf also shared that  partner and sexual violence cases occur most frequently among young adults ages 16 to 24, so having these conversations with youth is crucial. 

“I think being able to talk about it [intimate violence] earlier and earlier, but especially in middle school and high school–before you’re out on your own more–is really important, so you recognize it better,” Melcalf said. 

During the presentation, Melcalf shared information on identifying toxic traits, told stories from clients, heard from students and talked about the cycle of violence. 

Melcalf also spoke about the dangers of romanticizing toxic behavior and jealousy through media. She talked about how a lot of popular content displays toxic behaviors as being part of an exciting, drama-filled relationship. She then went on to explain that “there is healthy drama,” and a relationship can be fun without including damaging behavior. 

Melcalf explained how a healthy relationship should be based on trust, honesty, independence and respect. These relationships should avoid toxic behaviors like intensity, which she mentioned is just as unhealthy as jealousy. She said these characteristics apply to every relationship, not only romantic ones, and that people should stay away from those that do not make them feel good. 

Hartley House offers support 24 hours a day on their hotline and website, along with offering counseling for survivors. 

Students who are interested in volunteer work and getting involved can visit the website and find opportunities to help or events to attend.