Earlier this month, junior and senior Panhellenic women gathered to listen to a speaker from the One Love Foundation. Huddling at circular tables in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom, most women asked eachother “why are we here?”
The One Love Foundation, founded in memory of Yeardley Love, strives to equip students with tools to confront relationship violence. The “Escalation Workshop” consisted of a quick introduction, a dramatized video representing a escalating situation between a college-aged man and woman, and then a breakdown discussion of the signs of relationship violence in the video.
While I appreciate Panhellenic’s intention and think very highly of the One Love Foundation, I was left with one very serious question: Why were only women on this campus going through this training?
Panhellenic’s male counterpart, IFC, as far as anyone could tell me, currently has no plans to meet with One Love or a simillar program. How effective can our campus really be at preventing abuse and violence if only half of the students are made responsible for recognizing the symptoms?
According to the One Love Foundation’s website, 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men experience relationship abuse for the first time betwween the ages of 18 and 24. Men experience abuse in college. Therefore, as the video suggests, they are also potential witnesses to a friend’s abuse. Yet, no men were present at last Sunday’s meeting.
To that end, is it only the responsiblity of the female students to recognize abuse because, as a demographic, they are abused at higher rates? Are men suspected of being inherently more aware of what behavior crosses the line? If we live under the mantra of “it’s on us,” are we not equally responsible for learning how to protect our friends and classmates in whatever way we can?
I walked away from the presentation holding a sheet of paper with statistics of relationship violence on one side and a list of resources on the other. I’m grateful that our student leaders want to challenge an epidemic on college campuses. None of this is to say that One Love or Panhellenic is not doing their best to start meaningful conversation. However, #WhySMU are the men on campus not required to have the same awareness of abuse as women?