10 Things I Learned from a Workshop on Relationship Violence
As reports of sexual violence on college campuses become increasingly widespread, so too are the advocacy groups raising awareness and battling against them. One of the organizations at the forefront of the conversation is One Love. Founded in 2010 after Yeardley Love, a former lacrosse player at the University of Virginia, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, the burgeoning group helps educate young people about the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
"It can be difficult to identify emotionally abusive behaviors," manager of campus engagement Jaklyn Van Manen told me one recent afternoon. "In order for people to act, they need to first understand the issue." One Love's primary educational tool is its Escalation Workshop, a 90-minute session that screens a shocking film about a college-aged couple in an abusive relationship, then follows with a discussion about key scenes and actions that could have been taken to avoid the inevitably tragic ending.
So far, over 119,000 students have viewed the film, and One Love has grown to a community of over 15,000 people across the country. I recently took a workshop at Columbia University in New York City—here's what I learned.
1. Never make assumptions about your partner.
You can't judge a perpetrator by a set of preconceived characteristics; a number of people are capable of violent behavior.
2. Be wary of fast-paced relationships.
Most relationships that end in domestic violence start out quickly.
3. Make sure both parties are calling the shots.
Both people in a relationship should be propelling it forward, as opposed to one person constantly pushing.
4. Recognize that your words hold weight.
Anything you say to a friend about their relationship can influence how they perceive it.
5. If you see something, say something.
If something seems off in your relationship (or a friend's), ask questions.
6. Social media can be deceiving.
Couples often use Facebook and Instagram as a highlight reel to show the good parts of a relationship due to societal pressure to be seen as a perfect couple.
VIDEO: The Story Behind One Love
7. Your partner should want to know your friends, not take you away from them.
Try subtly calling out their behavior without being accusatory.
8. Trust your gut.
If something seems wrong, it probably is.
9. Breakups are the most dangerous part of a relationship.
Try to be in a safe place and notify others when it's happening.
10. Abuse is rarely a one-time thing.
If it happens once, it will most likely happen again.