Talking About The Tough Stuff

bySarah Mennell '17
Sarah Mennell '17
How One Love is opening up new conversations about relationship abuse. Originally published on theodysseyonline.com

At a small liberal arts college, such as Denison, I would like to believe we are conscious of the major social, political, and cultural issues on our campus and in the world around us. We pride ourselves on this awareness and activism and strive to think and live in a way that will make the world a better place.

We want to do it all, but we're only human and there are only so many hours in the day, so when we realize that for as many important conversations we are having, there are so many more we aren't, it can be a difficult realization to come to terms with.

Jamie Carroll, a sophomore from Bronxville, NY is doing her part to ask questions and raise issues that we might not be hearing.

When I received an email from Jamie a few weeks ago about a workshop she wanted to bring to Denison regarding relationship violence, I was intrigued. This was definitely one of the conversations I knew I hadn't been having.

Jamie is working with the One Love foundation to bring this conversation forward on Denison's campus. One Love was founded in 2010 in memory of Yeardley Love, who was a senior lacrosse player at University of Virginia when she was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend.

“To know Yeardley was to love her - she was happy, kind, hard-working, humble, honest, fun, and enthusiastic,” reads a quote on the website from Yeardley's mother, Sharon Love. Sharon founded the organization, not only to commemorate her daughter, but also to raise awareness about the warning signs of abuse and activate communities to react to these signs.

“Relationship violence was never on my radar screen,” writes Sharon; “I had no idea that relationship abuse affects 1 in 3 women in her lifetime.”

One Love has plenty of resources, such as videos and workshops and works with schools and individuals to share this work and their message. I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Jamie this month and was blown away by the impact of the experience. Before anything started, Jamie read a trigger warning and prepared the fifteen or so women sitting around the room for what we would be seeing and talking about.

We watched a 40-minute video, following a fictional college relationship that becomes abusive, and ultimately ends with the man beating the woman to death in her own home after she tries to end the relationship. Despite some slightly cheesy moments at the start of the video, I think it's safe to say that we all felt the impact of the escalation and end of the abuse. After the fictional story ended, the screen filled with images and names of women and men, mostly our age, give or take a few years, who had been killed as the result of relationship violence.

Jamie led us through conversation, asking questions about the characters and the movie, that led into conversations about things we had seen and experienced. People were open and wanted to work through their reactions out loud and together.

Already, I could feel a community forming through this workshop as we processed our ideas together. As people walked home from the workshop, the conversations continued in smaller groups. It was amazing to see a single workshop open up these issues so clearly and quickly.

As Jamie continues to open up this workshop on campus, she took the time to answer a few questions about her connection to One Love and the work she's been doing.

How did you first hear about one love?

Sharon Robinson, One Love’s Vice Chairman is the head lacrosse coach for my high school’s (Bronxville High School in Bronxville, NY) varsity girl’s lacrosse team. Although I was not on the team, we were a very small high school so word was easily spread about One Love. Each year, the girl’s lacrosse team plays a game in honor of Yeardley Love and the One Love Foundation and it is a largely attended event by our high school. And now, the One Love Foundation’s office is located in my hometown of Bronxville!

What inspired you to get involved with One Love?

My best friend was interning for One Love last summer and would constantly tell me about how amazing the foundation was and all the things One Love was doing to help educate students and raise awareness of relationship violence and unhealthy relationships. I was blown away when I first watched the Escalation film (that is part of the Escalation Workshop) at the warning signs that are unseen by many, and even realized how many signs that were part of some of my past relationships that I never would have realized they were signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Why did you think it was important to bring this to Denison?

I think it was important to bring this to Denison because I think students everywhere should be aware and educated on these warning signs of unhealthy relationships, which could lead to violent relationships. The fact that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience relationship violence in their lifetime, and the most common ages for it to occur is between the ages of 18 and 24 was shocking to me.

Given the fact we are a college campus and all our students fall into that age group, I thought it would very important for students to be educated on this topic of relationship violence. Many students are very unaware of signs of unhealthy relationships, and hopefully by being educated on what are signs of good relationships versus bad relationships, students will be more aware in their own relationships.

With more students educated on this topic, hopefully we will be able to decrease the horrific statistics of violent relationships. In a survey conduced by One Love, 97% of the people surveyed said they would make it mandatory for all students on their campuses. I completely would agree and say it’s extremely educational and important for students to watch the video and participate in the Escalation Workshop.

What has been your favorite part of doing this workshop so far?

I’ve loved all the conversations in the discussion part of the workshop, that follows the film. It’s been really interesting hearing everyone’s responses and reactions to the video. The participation has been amazing from everyone so far. The feedback from everyone has also been so positive and has made this process and the workshops feel so rewarding.

How do you hope to move forward and expand this in your next few years at Denison?

In the next few years, I hope for as many students to be educated and experience the Escalation Workshop as possible. I hope that all athletic teams, sororities and fraternities, and as many clubs that would like to participate participate in the workshop. I think it would also be amazing for this to be introduced at August Orientation for the new incoming freshmen. College relationships can be and are very different from high school relationships, in the sense there is more freedom and they tend to move quicker. By being educated on these warning signs, hopefully their eyes will be opened to the signs and will be able to recognize them if they or a friend is ever put in a situation where the relationship is unhealthy.

It has been amazing already to see the work she's doing, and I am so excited to have this incredible workshop on our campus.

April 26, 2016