Katie promotes safe and healthy relationships

Posted by: Michele Cohen

When Katie O’Neill was asked to lead a new student leadership group that promotes safe and healthy relationships, she knew it was a cause she could get behind.

As someone who once felt trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, O’Neill, a junior Art Education major, thought she could share her story in an effort to help others prevent a similar situation. Team One Love began at Moore this semester.

The One Love Foundation was founded in 2010 after Yeardley Love, a senior at the University of Virginia, was killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend just weeks short of her graduation. The organization is dedicated to ending relationship violence and offers young people educational tools to avoid or help someone in an abusive relationship, whether physical, emotional or both.

One in three women and one in four men will experience relationship violence in their lifetime, according to the Foundation. Young women and men ages 16-24 are at three times greater risk.

“Because this has happened to me in my past and the emotional warning signs are never as clear as the signs of physical abuse, it was important to me that One Love was going to cover both there (issues),” O’Neill said. “As often as physical abuse happens in relationships, many women don’t realize when emotional abuse is affecting them. Or, if they do, they make excuses for their partners. One Love tries to bring attention to the early warning signs. Had I known this, I would have left my relationship a lot sooner. This program will have great impact.”

The One Love Foundation allows schools and colleges to create their own chapter to support the cause by first selecting students to be trained to lead the program. O’Neill and five others from Moore’s Student Leadership Board participated in the training.

The One Love Foundation offers a free, 90-minute “Escalation Workshop,” consisting of a 38 minute film, followed by a guided discussion geared towards helping students understand relationship violence and the warning signs of abuse. There have already been 683 of these workshops held on college campuses across the U.S.

O’Neill and the Student Leadership students led an Escalation Workshop with Foundation students on October 23. Later this month, Team One Love is making a paper tree bulletin board in Student Services and having students write affirmations on paper leaves to be displayed. Other events are planned for the spring.

Emily Johnson, Assistant Dean of Students, said she learned about the One Love Foundation at a recent Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) conference. She was trained on the program along with student services representatives from other art schools. But the students themselves must facilitate the program on campus.

Johnson chose three students to lead Team One Love at Moore. These students represent the three leadership groups that comprise the Student Leadership Board  – Victoria Dallas from Residence Life, Delia Ascher from Student Government and O’Neill from Student Engagement Committee.

“I was moved when I learned about this program, and thought it was something we definitely needed to take advantage of here at Moore,” Johnson said. “Hopefully this will help teach our students what to do when they may have a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship, or they may be in one themselves.