At Montevideo’s El Puente youth center, more than 100 teens participate in a “Debate Theater” activity that seeks to prevent relationship violence.
More than 100 teens gathered at the El Puente youth center to participate in an experimental theater activity, where they had the chance to confront and discuss the various dimensions of relationship violence. To create this forum, SaludArte used the technique of debate theater (teatro debate), a tool that helps to facilitate the verbal and theatrical discussion of a given topic or problem.
The activity sought to problamatize the way relationship violence is often viewed as “normal,” instead pointing it out as a serious issue, with the ultimate goal being to prevent relationship and gender-based violence. These types of violence have unique traits and manifestations during the adolescent years, when teens often begin dating.
SaludArte decided to develop this particular debate theater activity after many teens who suffer from relationship violence spoke up, saying they feel a lack of spaces to discuss and look for solutions to this problem.
During the program’s hour-and-a-half duration, three actors, two musicians, and some audience volunteers acted out several scenes that presented various instances of relationship violence, following the guidelines of the facilitator. The first scenes depicted situations that escalated into violence, and many of them were based on experiences that attendees shared voluntarily. The facilitator then shifted the tone, suggesting scenes that may start out with a conflict, but that do not end in physical violence, with the purpose of encouraging the attendees—who came from ten different youth centers across the city—to always look for a non-violent solution.
The growth of violence among teenage couples was the impetus for the creation of this type of program, which touched upon several aspects of this issue, including how to encourage dialogue among teens, the roles of families and teachers, and the multiple manifestations of violence (including non-physical ones). It also sought to strip down the perception of violence as a normal and acceptable occurrence. The program recognized the importance of intervention in the topic of relationship violence during the teen years, not only because that is the period when such violence often begins, but also because people who are violent partners as teens will often remain violent into their older years.
Some of the situations the scenes depicted included people who try to control everything their partners do and who fly into fits of rage when their partners do not obey their every wish. In real life, this type of violence and control is largely perpetrated by men against women, and the scenes took this dynamic of gender-based violence into account. The attendees often viewed these scenes as entirely normal happenings, despite their violent aspects.