#ThatsNotLove: Helping teens spot signs of relationship abuse

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(CNN)Looking back, Mattis Collier, now 20 and a junior at the University of South Carolina, can see all the warning signs.

“It was a very quick relationship. I didn’t know him very well … but the jealousy, the rage, all of that stuff came pretty soon after,” said Collier about her ex-boyfriend, whom she started dating early in high school.

    There was so much isolation, she says, remembering how he went through her phone one time, deleting all of her male friends in her contacts and on Facebook, and how he told her she couldn’t talk to guys or go to parties.

    Reluctant to get too specific, she says the relationship was abusive in multiple ways. Ultimately, she cut off communication with him after she started college.

    “I was very blind to the situation, and you know, when it’s your first love and all of that, you really think that that kind of thing is, ‘Oh it won’t happen again,’ or ‘He was just so mad,’ or ‘I lied to him so I deserved that,’ but it progressively got worse.”

    Teens

    So far, the film — along with a 45-minute workshop led by student facilitators — has been showcased at nearly 700 colleges and high schools across the country, with nearly 35,000 students participating. According to Hood of One Love, nearly 90% of students who participated in workshops said they thought it should be required viewing at their school, and 97% said they would recommend it to a friend even if it wasn’t required.

    ‘Rocketed’ to understanding

    The goal, an ambitious one, is to have 100% of students on every campus in the U.S. see the film and participate in a workshop, said Hood.

    “Because movement is our goal, we just want as many eyeballs to see it as possible,” she said. “We now think that if ultimately we want to change the social climate on campuses, so that people can speak up when they see things, then it can’t just be a pocket of kids that see it. It has to be many, many more.”

    I wondered why One Love wouldn’t just release the film on YouTube and allow teens across the country and around the world to see it. Hood said there are two reasons. First, it could be triggering for someone who is an abusive relationship, she said, and you would want to make sure there were resources available or you could communicate to that person what resources are available when they watched it. And second, she said, while the film is powerful, the workshops are more powerful.

    “You walk in, you think this has nothing to do with you. And in 38 minutes, which is the length of the film … you’re sort of rocketed to not only understanding the issue, being more aware of it, you recognize that you’ve seen it before,” said Hood. “You have a connection to it.”

    Because ultimately, that’s part of the sad reality of relationship abuse. We all most likely know someone who has experienced this.

    “It doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just poor people. It’s not just people without fathers or mothers or guidance. It’s everybody. It’s your sorority sister. It’s your friend. It’s your sibling. It’s your child,” said Mattis Collier, who hopes to be able to work with One Love after her graduation in December and then go to law school to work on the issue of domestic violence in college athletics.

    “And I think it’s very important for people to realize that you need to talk about it and you need to explain it while you’re younger. It’s not just bruises that are giveaways for an abusive relationship. … It’s how someone talks to you. It’s how someone treats you. It’s how someone talks about you to others.”

    Showing people they have a role to play

    Collier wishes the “Escalation” workshop were required at her high school and college. Right now, just over 40 schools require it with a subset of students, including athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and freshmen, according to One Love.

    “I wish that this was a required seminar for high school, for college students, because the lack of knowledge and education awareness in our country is astounding,” said Collier.

    As One Love looks to the future, it hopes not only to increase the number of schools where “Escalation” workshops are held and also increase the number of schools where they are required, but also to deepen the engagement of students, with more Team One Loves — more students like Collier facilitating workshops, training students to be workshop facilitators and holding “That’s Not Love” events where they write words on sheets to match what love is and what it is not.

    “It may sound crazy to have these ambitious goals about starting a movement and getting to 100% of the kids on college campuses,” said Hood, “but it’s sort of pretty simple what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to just wake people up to their personal connection and get them to develop their voice and understanding that they have a role to play.”

    What drives Sharon Love and the rest of her family is trying to prevent what happened to Yeardley from happening to any other young person in a relationship.

    “I feel pretty confident already that we are saving lives,” she said. “We’ve gotten so many letters from so many people that have gotten out of a bad situation, and really just one of those letters makes it all worthwhile.”

    What do you think is the best way to try to prevent relationship abuse among teenagers? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Health on Twitter or Facebook.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/health/teen-dating-abuse-thatsnotlove-one-love-foundation/index.html