Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader teamed up with Counselor for Student Development Megan Downs and Executive Assistant of Student Development Tamara Dillow, to bring a series of Escalation workshops to Knox as a way to reduce the risk of relationship violence on campus.
“Everybody wants to prevent violence, but aside from just preventing violence we want to do things that reduce risk and promote awareness and try to stop violence before it actually happens, not just to be able to respond to it,” Schrader said. “It’s learning how to identify and navigate healthy and unhealthy relationships and then being able to address matters that might be signs of unhealthy relationships before they become abusive.”
The Escalation workshops were originally created by a foundation known as One Love in 2010 by Sharon Love after her daughter, Yeardley Love, was murdered by her boyfriend just weeks before graduating from the University of Virginia.
Data provided by the organization showed that one in three women and one in four men are in a violent relationship during their lifetime. The Knox College Annual Fire and Safety Report, also known as The Clery Report, stated that there was a total of 10 instances of dating violence on campus reported from 2015 to 2016.
“In our lives, we all have multiple relationships that exist in degrees of healthy and unhealthy. Providing models and examples, signs and symptoms, these are kind of road maps,” Schrader said. “Even if I’m not in a relationship, even if I don’t question if it’s healthy or unhealthy, if something is making me uncomfortable and I learn to recognize that, then I might expect more for myself and I might expect more for the people around me.”
The workshop began with a video detailing an abusive relationship from the beginning to the end, which was used to educate viewers not only on the signs of an abusive or unhealthy relationship, but on how they can intervene in situations where they might suspect there is a relationship problem. Afterwards the peer educators, who are students on campus trained by the One Love Foundation, hosted a discussion about the video where students could talk about their experiences or what they learned from the video.
Downs said that the movie showed students how to recognize the red flags in potentially unhealthy relationships, which she felt was important.
“A lot of times we see those red flags, but kind of just blow them off. This video did a good job of showing that escalation of what can happen in abusive relationships,” Downs said. “When people come in, and that’s something they talk about, they’ve already known in the back of their head that it wasn’t super healthy, or that there were red flags.”
Peer educator and senior Errol Kaylor also discussed how the video provided for the Escalation workshop could be used to help students recognize abusive behaviors in their own relationships as well as their friends’ relationships. He also emphasized that relationship violence and unhealthy relationships can occur outside of romance and extend to friends and even family members.
“It’s very important that we talk about relationship violence on campus. Something that we don’t talk about is that relationship violence isn’t just restricted to the romantic sphere,” Kaylor said. “Any kind of relationship can be toxic. You don’t have to be someone’s significant other to be abused or be abusive – this power dynamic exists in the workplace, the classroom, in families and among friends.”
Kaylor also noted how, even just within the few weeks after receiving training to be a peer educator, the videos were impacting his ability to intervene in situations where there might be an unhealthy relationship.
“I think that [the workshop] will make people more comfortable intervening because it showed realistic situations where someone should intervene,” Kaylor said.
He also mentioned how the video showed specific examples on what to say when confronting someone about their potentially unhealthy or abusive relationship.
As an example, Kaylor emphasized that attacking the abused or the abuser never works and causes them to go in to defensive mode. Bringing the situation into a different context or simply asking them how their relationship is doing is a great way to help start a conversation about the issue.
“You’re never going to be able to just say to someone, ‘you’re in an abusive relationship, get out of it,’” Kaylor said. “People have to come to the decision on their own.”