#LoveBetter campaigns for healthy relationships

By DIVA PAREKH | April 11, 2019

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Students signed a banner in support of ending intimate partner violence.
RUDY MALCOM / The News-Letter

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) partnered with Baltimore-based nonprofit One Love to host an event raising awareness about relationship violence on Sunday.

One Love started in 2010 after Yeardley Love, a lacrosse player at the University of Virginia (UVa) was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend three weeks before she was supposed to graduate. Her mother and her sister started the organization in Baltimore to raise awareness about intimate partner violence, honor her memory, and teach students about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. 

Assistant Athletic Director Kelsie Gory explained that the University’s partnership with One Love began during the 2015-16 academic year, when Hopkins Athletics held mandatory workshops for student-athletes. The workshops detailed the warning signs of relationship abuse and violence. 

Then-SAAC President Eden Epner followed up with One Love and hosted a field day last spring to raise awareness for the organization. At the event, organizers showed videos that detailed signals of abusive relationships. 

This year, SAAC Community Service Chair Claire State, who organized Sunday’s event, felt that it was important to send a more uplifting and lighthearted message. State explained that she felt a strong connection to One Love’s #LoveBetter campaign.

“Something that I feel strongly about is that you can’t love other people if you aren’t taking care of yourself and you don’t love yourself first,” she said. “The #LoveBetter campaign is about not only having good relationships in your life but making a healthy lifestyle for yourself too.” 

Junior Raphael Bechtold, who helped organize the event, agreed. He emphasized the importance of not only recognizing signs of relationship abuse but also identifying how to have more positive relationships.

“We’re focusing on how to do things right, how to have a more healthy relationship, how to love better,” Bechtold said. “Hopefully, people see what they can do… to better their relationships in the future.”

One Love Engagement Coordinator for the Maryland and Washington D.C. region Grace Carmichael detailed the history of the #LoveBetter campaign, which started in February 2018. She explained that the idea came from a pop-up Valentine’s Day store that One Love put up in New York City.

“When you walk into the shop, you would have teddy bears, candy hearts, a locket — but as you got closer to the items, on the candy hearts it would say something like, ‘you’re fat’ and when you squeezed the teddy bear it would say, ‘You’re stupid, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,’” she said. “It was examining the power dynamics in the cycle of abuse and things that are masked behind behaviors that look healthy and look great but don’t reveal what’s really going on behind the scenes.”

At the event, organizers played a video called “Because I love you,” which explored similar unhealthy behaviors hidden behind love, showing how seemingly innocuous statements can reveal underlying harm. 

“Because I love you, you shouldn’t be hanging out with that dude. You should know how dumb that makes me look,” the video said. “Because I love you, I will check your texts every day.”

In a speech she made after the video, Carmichael highlighted the importance of using language to avoid furthering unhealthy relationship habits.

“We should be mindful of how we’re talking to our friends, how we’re talking to our loved ones, really how we’re navigating these healthy behaviors moving forward,” she said.

Women’s Lacrosse Assistant Coach Steele Stanwick spoke to those who participated in the One Love x Hopkins event, thanking them for their attendance. As an undergraduate, he went to UVa with Yeardley Love and was friends with her before she was killed by her ex-boyfriend.

“The organization is close to my heart, because Yeardley was such a great friend to me. She was one of those people that I think would have been friends with every single one of you, one of those people that you could talk to and would put a smile on your face,” Stanwick said. “So it’s really nice that these events humanize her and put a face to who Yeardley was.”

He emphasized the importance of continuing to raise awareness about relationship violence, commending One Love’s training material for helping people recognize seemingly small signs that indicate larger relationship issues.

“Make sure you talk about it and let somebody know if you are seeing something,” Stanwick said. “I would challenge you guys — if you are seeing something that might be going wrong or you’re seeing a friend that might not be doing the right stuff. I waited, and I look back and I wish I did not.”

Gory felt that the messages of One Love and the #LoveBetter campaign were particularly important for students to hear. She hoped that the event would help students ask themselves the right questions in their relationships.

“What is appropriate language that I should be using with others? What’s appropriate when I’m interacting with someone else? And when should I recognize that maybe I’m in a situation that isn’t healthy for me? How can I seek resources to be able to remove myself from that situation, whether that’s seeking resources on campus or otherwise?” she said.

State and the SAAC organizing committee reached out to several other student organizations and asked them to table at the One Love x Hopkins event on Sunday. The Student Government Association (SGA) also co-sponsored the event, contributing up to $700 for catering, decorations and advertising. 

SGA Executive President AJ Tsang felt that in light of recent concerns surrounding the Office of Institutional Equity’s (OIE) handling of sexual violence cases, One Love’s message was particularly relevant.

“One Love aligns with our push this year to ensure that the University continues to reform the OIE and continues to pay more attention to issues of sexual misconduct and relationship violence on campus and ensures that survivors are heard and ensures that there’s effective recourse for reports that go to OIE,” Tsang said.

Junior Bystander Intervention Trainer Elina Hoffman agreed with Tsang’s message. She explained that Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) often consisted of some of One Love’s promotional material and aligned with One Love’s goals. By tabling at the event, Hoffman hoped to make students aware of more of the resources available to them.

“Introducing students to all this baseline and background information will make sure they have the tools they need to engage in these conversations moving forward and give them a common ground to just open up the door to think about these things,” she said. “BIT is not enough, but at least it’s a start. If everyone has the same baseline, then they can engage in different conversations moving forward.”

Junior Scotty McGaugh and sophomore Gabriela Hubner expressed similar sentiments. Their table represented JHU Preventative Education & Empowerment for Peers (PEEPs), an organization that works on public health issues relevant to students.

“A lot of people think that if you know someone who you might think is in a toxic relationship, you shouldn’t say anything cause that’s their own business,“ Hubner said. “But it’s important to encourage open conversation and open discussion about it.”

FIJI Islander, a celebration held on Saturday, also helped raise funds and awareness for One Love. Sophomore Eric Fei, FIJI’s corresponding secretary, explained the connection that he felt to the organization and its cause.

“We all see some of ourselves in Yeardley Love. She lived her life with passion and optimism and was involved in lacrosse and the Greek community. When something like that happens, you realize it’s not all that rare. Relationship abuse is a public health epidemic,” Fei said. “This started in Baltimore, and Yeardley Love is someone we might be a lot more connected to than we think.”

Rudy Malcom contributed reporting.

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