Yeardley Love was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend just days before her graduation from the University of Virginia. After her death, Love’s mother and her sister, Lexie, started the One Love Foundation in her memory. The two didn’t want Love’s story to be forgotten and felt that it was their calling to continue the discussion on sexual violence and relationship abuse.
Student Development had two showings this past week of a short film depicting a young girl’s, Paige, struggle in her abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Chase. The film was based on a true story and ended with Paige’s death by Chase’s hand.
“We acknowledge that the couple in this film is a white heterosexual couple but, this kind of relationship isn’t limited to only this type of relationship,” Tiger Health Educator, Justin Unternaher, ‘19, said. “It could happen to anyone and any relationship, no matter what race or sexuality or socioeconomic status.”
After the film, Unternaher and his partner, Hannah Brown, ‘19, opened up discussion to the audience about some of the topics brought to light in the film.
Many of the students agreed that it was easy for Paige to make her relationship seem okay online, when in actuality it was getting worse.
“If you’re in a relationship with someone like that, it’s so hard for you to actually see the abuse yourself because it becomes a norm for your relationship,” Savannah VanPutte, ‘20, said.
Social media was a hot topic of conversation due to its heavy reinforcement on abusive behavior and, therefore, its effects on the normalization of the abusive relationship. For example, in the film, the peers of the protagonist continued to comment nice things on photos of the couple online, saying things like, “you 2 are so cute” when, in actuality, those same peers were very much aware of the abuse going on behind the photos.
“Normally those kinds of comments are just things you say online and not so much things you actually say in person and really mean,” Rachel Danahy, ‘19, said. “It’s like seeing someone in the hallway and asking how they’re doing. You aren’t looking for a whole answer; it’s more so just a common courtesy kind of thing.”
In this way, Paige’s friends reinforced the abuse in Paige’s head by not talking to her about it in person or refusing to acknowledge the issue in person. And, even when the friends did see blatantly obvious abusive actions/comments from Chase, they played it off as just a ‘normal couple’ fight and ignored it.
“It’s important to normalize that kind of open conversation with your friends so that you feel more comfortable having those kinds of serious, hard conversations,” Kai Hannum, ‘19, said.
To conclude the discussion, both Brown and Unternaher left the group with some encouraging words going forward. Unternaher reminded the group that relationships are a two way street and that boundaries should be established on both sides.
“In the beginning the relationship may seem okay and non-abusive,” Brown said. “But, in the end, it’s always about power and control over another person.”
With that, Project Womyn, Tiger Health and Student Development encourage the Wittenberg community to be more cognizant of their own relationships, your peers’ relationships and to continue having these kinds of open, educational conversations.