Do you know what an unhealthy relationship looks like?
It may seem like a simple question, but physical and emotional abuse by romantic partners is all too common, especially for college-aged women — those between 16 and 24 years old experience the highest per-capita rate of intimate partner violence.
College students in Boston working to change that statistic with the help of the One Love Foundation, founded by the family of Yeardley Love, a 22-year-old University of Virginia who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2010.
Sophie Barry and Olivia Ostrover, both 20-year-old sophomores at Harvard, first learned about Love’s story in 2016. They were shocked they hadn’t heard it before, they said, and are now working to make One Love a strong presence on Harvard’s campus.
“College is often the time when people enter their first relationship, and with that comes growing pains,” they said in an email. “We believe that there are so many terrible events that we cannot control, such as disease and natural disasters, but it is entirely in our power to have healthy relationships. This is an issue we can prevent and solve by raising awareness.”
The foundation hosts education workshops about the signs of abuse and encourages people to share their experiences being in and getting out of unhealthy relationships.
In 2014, students from Boston College and the University of Virginia — lacrosse players, like Love had been — went even further, starting “Yards for Yeardley,” a fundraising event for the foundation for which student-athletes get sponsored to run (or bike, or swim) a certain number of yards.
Students across Boston continue to carry out that effort. Maddie Curley, a 22-year-old senior at Boston University, said it’s an easy way to get people involved “because we are running for something bigger than ourselves.”
Curley first learned about One Love when BU’s Dean of Students hosted a One Love workshop with student-athletes, which involved a film-based discussion on the hidden signs of an unhealthy relationship.
“Many of the signs shown in the film were all too familiar to me, and I felt I had a chance to join a movement that would not only help myself, but also my community,” she said. “One Love is founded on a tragic, but incredibly relevant, societal concern. …My hope is that through One Love's outreach, exercising kindness can become second nature.”
One Love will host a Boston fundraising gala on May 2. Katie Hood, CEO of the foundation, commended the Boston community for its efforts around this cause.
“Boston was one of our first regional offices,” she said, “and we believe it will be a model for other cities across the country as to what can be done when all aspects of a community band together and prioritize healthy relationships as a shared value.”