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The Short Version: The statistics are alarming: 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men, and 1 in 2 transgender or nonbinary individuals will be in abusive relationships at some point in their lives. The One Love Foundation offers workshops and online content to help turn those statistics around for good. The foundation aims to accomplish that goal by teaching people the signs of unhealthy relationships. This valuable education allows individuals to seek healthy partnerships and stops abuse.
From the outside, it was difficult to see how violent 22-year-old Yeardley Love’s ex-boyfriend was until it was too late. The green-eyed, long-haired lacrosse star was just a few weeks shy of graduating from the University of Virginia when her dreams were cut short.
One night in May 2010, she was relaxing in her apartment when her ex forced his way in and beat her to death. The horrific event sent a shock through the entire campus, but especially her family and friends. They wished they had known what to look for to help her escape the abuse she was dealing with.
“Her family learned during the trial that her death could have been prevented had they recognized the signs of an abusive relationship,” said Melanie Sperling, the Chief of Staff at the One Love Foundation. “One Love works every day to ensure that young people have the tools that Yeardley, her friends, and family did not have because everyone deserves to have healthy and safe relationships.”
In 2015, Yeardley’s family launched One Love, an organization that provides empowering interactive workshops in high schools, colleges, and communities throughout the U.S. It also has an active online presence and releases videos to demonstrate what abuse looks and sounds like — and even how seemingly kind words can hide it.
The nonprofit has educated more than 1 million young people through its peer-to-peer discussions and workshops. And approximately 100 million people have learned the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships through One Love’s online educational resources.
The One Love team recently launched the Love Is Learned program to reach out to young people with powerful films and honest conversation about loving relationships.
“We grew up learning that love is a feeling,” reads the program description on the foundation’s website. “We watched it onscreen and heard about it in our favorite songs, but there’s so much we didn’t learn and were left to figure out on our own. The truth is, we can all learn to love better.”
Anyone can join the movement by creating an account online via One Love’s newly-launched Online Education Center. From there, educators, parents, and peers can find tips for more effective facilitation. The courses include one called Escalation that illuminates how abusive relationships often start intensely and quickly become unhealthy.
Gen Z is a significant audience, and the nonprofit also has courses on how abusive situations may seem fine on social media but have a dark, hidden side. It also shares how the seemingly sweet saying, “Because I love you,” can accompany manipulation or deflecting responsibility for destructive behaviors.
Visitors can watch short, fictional films that demonstrate how troubled partners react in unsafe ways and initiate discussions with community groups, friends, or family members.
“We are incredibly innovative and always find new ways to meet our audience’s needs as we care deeply about saving and changing lives,” Melanie said. “No matter your job title or how many years of experience you have, your voice is valued, and you are encouraged to share your perspective on how we can do better.”
As part of the One Love educational workshops, the foundation offers 10 things to look for in relationships to determine if they’re healthy.
Its 10 signs of a healthy relationship can help anyone ensure they are working to be a better partner. Healthy relationships begin and progress at a comfortable pace for both parties. People should be able to trust their partner without any tests to prove loyalty, and they should be honest and candid without fearing how their partner will respond.
Healthy relationships give individuals a feeling of space to pursue passions independently from the other person. They should also feel respected for their beliefs, opinions, and boundaries, and their partner should be caring, empathetic, and kind.
Both partners should take responsibility for their actions and words, and have open and respectful disagreements without belittling or yelling. In short, it should be fun to spend time together, and both individuals should feel like they can be themselves.
Of course, it’s also important to understand what an unhealthy relationship looks like. Individuals may notice extreme intensity in their partner’s feelings and behaviors, with a strong desire to be together constantly. Partners can become possessive, jealous, and controlling.
In unhealthy relationships, people may feel isolated from their friends and family. That may make them feel dependent on their partner. Unhealthy partners may start to sabotage significant others by spoiling their reputation, achievements, or success.
Unhealthy relationships often experience wild ups and downs, and one partner may have strong, volatile reactions. They may shift responsibility for bad behavior to alcohol, mental health issues, or past experiences.
One Love aims to help everyone learn those signs and identify unhealthy relationships early on. That can mean the difference between escaping a bad situation and suffering repeated abuse.
Melanie said that many people have reached out over the years to say that One Love has helped them — and even saved their lives.
“We often hear ‘I wish I had this language to identify unhealthy relationships sooner,'” she said. “We hear of young people every day who were able to identify that they were in an unhealthy relationship after seeing the signs in a workshop and were able to get out before it became abusive.”
It can be challenging to navigate romantic relationships since most people don’t learn what to expect. Most of the education surrounding love comes from popular songs and movies, but love is much more than a feeling, said Melanie.
“It’s a skill that takes continuous practice, and One Love gives everyone the tools they need to build healthier relationships,” she said.
If someone thinks they may be involved in an abusive relationship, One Love also provides skills and tools they need to get help.
Preventing abuse begins by teaching the fundamental steps to build and maintain healthy relationships. One Love videos and educational tools are available online through virtual events, workshops, and the new One Love Education Center. It’s free to sign up, learn, and share knowledge with others.
A shared experience may save someone’s life.
“We’re continually working to meet people where they are in their lives to ensure they’re getting the tools and resources they need to identify abuse,” Melanie said. “This is something that affects us all.”
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