The onscreen relationship starts innocently enough, when a young woman and young man meet on a fictional college campus and begin dating.
In the unsettling journey that unfolds in the 38-minute film entitled, “Escalation” — one of the principle educational tools used by the One Love Foundation, which combats relationship violence — viewers witness the unraveling of a couple plagued by the male partner’s verbal and physical abuse.
It has been over six years since University of Virginia student-athlete Yeardley Love was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend, George Huguely, when Love was weeks away from graduating. The murder jolted the country and made international headlines. The family of Love, a star UVA lacrosse player at the time of her death, started the One Love Foundation to honor Yeardley (pronounced YARD-lee) and create awareness of relationship violence by educating all age groups.
But a partnership with the NFL that developed a few years after One Love’s start has helped both entities in unique ways — the foundation has expanded its mission while the league has developed another strategic business relationship in which commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 professional teams can further address the domestic violence/sexual assault issue which has plagued the league.
The NFL was clobbered by negative headlines during 2014, when Goodell and the league mishandled several domestic violence/abuse cases. Then Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault case was front and center. In that same timeframe, One Love Foundation began exploring ways to partner with the league.
“It took us a while to be heard,” says One Love chief executive officer Katie Hood.
The Baltimore Ravens stepped up first, with team owner Stephen Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass making a $400,000 donation to One Love in December, 2014 (Yeardley Love was a Baltimore-area native). Since then, One Love has not only continued to work with Goodell and league executives, but the foundation has strengthened its relationships with individual NFL teams. The Jaguars made an early investment in One Love, like the Ravens. The Seahawks are hosting an event next week to introduce One Love to the surrounding community, and the Jets are holding a workshop about One Love for local high school and college students later this month at their Florham Park practice complex. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
“The NFL has been a great amplifier of our work and the movement we’re trying to build, and specific teams have stepped up to support our work in their communities,” says Hood. “Some of those relationships have come through NFL introductions and some have developed organically on their own as teams learn about our work. You can’t underestimate the role that partnerships like these can play in raising the visibility of our movement and mission. This is not just a football problem or a sports problem, but it has been awesome to see how teams and institutions like the NFL can step forward and amplify our approach. Two years ago, no one really knew who we were. Now we’ve educated 65,000 kids in under two years, a number that increases every day. Their validation, introductions and exposure has been critical to making that happen.”
There is no direct funding of One Love from the NFL, but Hood says that she and other One Love staff members are “in regular communication” with Goodell, NFL VP of social responsibility Anna Isaacson and other staff and senior leaders “about how we can spread the work about our tools, resources and campaigns.”
When the Jets host the workshop Oct. 25, attendees will watch the “Escalation” film as part of the agenda. An integral element of One Love’s mission is reaching out to young audiences to educate them on how to prevent relationship violence or be on the lookout for warning signs, since it is an epidemic that can start as early as high school.
“One Love works to educate young people and open their eyes to the fact they see this issue all around them nearly every day,” says Hood. “Once made aware of this issue’s relevance in their lives, we work to then empower them to be leaders of change. And while certainly technology and social media can be used to victimize other people, these (formats) can also be our friend as we work to build this movement. (Social media) can enable young people to share information they believe in with their friends and networks so quickly. There’s something to be said for that and we are really excited about how social media can help speed this movement along.
“The common thread with all of this is a deep desire to make sure that young people have access to information that can save their lives,” adds Hood. “Their involvement really accelerates our work.”
Source: NY Daily News