"I didn’t go out with my friends”, “I lost weight”, “I stopped dressing how I wanted”.

Across Argentina, young women have been taking to social media to share stories of violent or controlling relationships using the hashtag #AmigaDateCuenta (Girlfriend, realize what is happening). The conversation is part of a Spotlight Initiative campaign to prevent gender-based violence among adolescents by helping them to recognize that violence can take many forms, and to detect dangerous behaviour early.

“I saw #AmigaDateCuenta and I related immediately,” wrote Twitter user @Micaaymara. “Thankfully, I came out of all that violence and toxicity...I will never get tired of thanking my friends who made me realize everything.”

"Many of the attitudes and behaviours that we do not identify as violence are just different forms of violence." -Lali Espósito, Singer

Almost 27 per cent of Argentinian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime. According to the Women’s Office of the Supreme Court of Justice, one woman is murdered in the country every 32 hours.

Argentinian singer and actress Lali Espósito threw her support behind the campaign by starring in a series of digital and social media videos to raise awareness. She also shared the campaign with her seven million Instagram followers.

“A fundamental step in eradicating violence is learning to detect it in time and stop it, not normalize it,” she said. “With #AmigaDateCuenta we want to reach millions of girls and boys and generate this fundamental conversation to build a society free of violence.

"A fundamental step in eradicating violence is learning to detect it in time and stop it, not normalize it," said singer Lali Espósito. Photo: Spotlight Initiative.

“We usually think that a relationship is violent when there are physical aggressions but the message we want to send is that many of the attitudes and behaviours that we do not identify as violence are just different forms of violence,” said Ms. Espósito. “More than once we have become confused and have thought that jealousy and control have to do with love.”

Many teens highlighted the role their friends played in helping them to escape controlling or abusive situations, and called on their peers to become active bystanders.

“How many times do we talk to a friend and do not dare to say #AmigaDateCuenta?” wrote @Antozanottirr on Twitter. “How many times were we even protagonists in these relationships, normalizing attitudes that humiliated, questioned and restricted us?”

The number of a national, 24-hour hotline to assist women experiencing intimate partner violence was also widely shared. Women in Argentina can call 144 to report violence and to access counselling and support. The hotline was implemented in liaison with national, provincial and municipal organizations, as well as with civil society organizations.

By Adrian Arden