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McDaniel College to host relationship violence workshop

Nearly five years ago, the story of University of Virginia student and lacrosse player Yeardley Love made headlines when she was found beaten to death in her apartment by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, who was later convicted of second-degree murder.

Yeardley's tumultuous relationship prompted her family and friends to create the One Love Foundation, with the goal of ending relationship violence. The group brings its Escalation workshop to McDaniel College on Wednesday, March 25, where the 38-minute film "Escalation" will be screened with a discussion to follow.

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"One Love's sole purpose is to put an end to relationship violence and prevent this from ever happening to another family. Everything we develop is directed toward that goal," said Sharon Love, Yeardley's mother.

"I knew nothing about relationship violence," she said. "I thought it happened to women who were stuck in an abusive marriage because they were financially dependent on the abuser."

Love, a McDaniel alumna now living in Cockeysville, said she was shocked to learn that relationship violence occurs three times more often among young people between the ages of 16 and 24 than it does older couples.

The video is loosely based upon Yeardley's relationship, showing how a college relationship can steadily spiral into violence.

According to statistics provided by the organization, 1 in 3 women in the U.S. will be in a violent relationship at some point in their lifetime — something the group hopes to end.

"We chose the film format because we thought it would capture the attention of 16- to 24-year-olds," Love said. "It seems to be working — we're getting a great response."

The format is the most effective way to engage the "hearts and minds" of the young people they're trying to reach, said Karen Hood, CEO of One Love.

"Video enables us to make behaviors visual and clear … so that students walk away with a much fuller understanding of all the behaviors that are unhealthy, potentially dangerous and ultimately abusive," Hood said.

Before launching viewings of the film at high school and college campuses across the country, the film was tested on focus groups at schools including Yale University, Harvard University, Wake Forest University, Boston College and Boston University, Love said.

A discussion component was added after the film, so the students create a dialogue around relationship violence, share their experiences and learn how they can intervene if they see someone in an abusive relationship, according to Jordyn Cohen, program coordinator for the organization.

Stephany Parcell, 24, a graduate assistant and a coach for McDaniel's women's lacrosse team, will facilitate one of the discussion groups of about 20 students. She has been trained to lead the discussion, which involves asking students a series of 20 questions.

"The discussion helps students cope with what they just saw and understand it," Parcell said. "It's a really powerful film that shows how common this is among college students."

One Love is bringing the program to roughly 23 colleges and 16 high schools in the state, and hopes that number will grow, Cohen said.

The entire school has been invited to attend, and so far about 200 students at McDaniel will participate in the workshop, said Cheryl Knauer, a college spokeswoman.

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The school has made raising awareness of domestic and dating violence a priority with initiatives such as bystander intervention training during new student orientation, a Red Flag Campaign and a Consent Event, said Beth Gerl, vice president of student affairs at the school.

The college is also in the process of launching Green Dot, a bystander intervention program, to train students in assessing unsafe situations, she said.

The school's football team, men's basketball team, men's and women's soccer teams, and women's lacrosse team will take part, said Paul Moyer, athletic director at the school, who attended an Escalation workshop held by the Baltimore Ravens football team in January. Moyer said the school has a strong relationship with the Ravens, who used to practice on their campus.

"The Ravens' focus on relationship violence has been an important part of their foundation efforts, and we felt like it was important on college campuses these days," Moyer said.

The Baltimore football team donated money to the One Love Foundation following a video that surfaced of former running back Ray Rice dragging his then-fiancee and current wife, Janay Rice, from an elevator after knocking her unconscious last February, forcing the team to the center of a debate about domestic violence.

Athletes at the college, who are part of a leadership program, serve as role models for their peers when it comes to a variety of issues including domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse, Moyer said.

"They have opportunities to influence these kinds of incidents as athletes at a liberal arts college," Moyer said. "We feel like our athletes are leaders on campus and off."

Moyer, who has two daughters, said the video had a strong impact on him as a father.

"I felt it personally — it's a hard movie to watch," Moyer said.

Moyer said the film depicts a relationship that gets off to a normal start but slowly escalates into a controlling relationship that becomes violent, signs that the female character's friends don't react to.

"These are what appeared to be upwardly mobile, very bright, suburban kinds of kids at an elite university and they don't react to any of these signs," Moyer said.

Love wants students to walk away with an awareness of the signs of relationship violence and the courage to intervene when signs of a dangerous relationship surface, she said.

"If they recognize the signs, they may be able to help before it's too late," she said.

Moyer said he hopes the program will promote discussion of relationship violence on campus and off.

"We talk about alcohol and drug abuse all the time on college campuses," Moyer said. "I hope this event will help raise consciousness of relationship violence."

Reach staff writer Lauren Loricchio at 410-857-7862 or email lauren.loricchio@carrollcountytimes.com.

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