Lynchburg, Va. -- More than 600 Lynchburg College community members gathered in Turner Gymnasium on Sunday evening to gain skills to combat relationship violence, thanks to the One Love Foundation.
Named for former University of Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love, who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend in 2010, the One Love Foundation was formed by the Love family to educate and raise awareness about relationship abuse and how to address it.
Sharon Love, Yeardley's mother, greeted Lynchburg's students, staff and faculty with a personally recorded video that served as a prelude to the escalation workshop, a 90-minute session designed to highlight the warning signs for relationship violence and encourage people to speak out against it.
One in three women and one in four men will experience relationship violence in their lifetime, but with escalation workshops such as Sunday's, the One Love Foundation hopes to change that statistic.
"If tonight, with 600 of us here, empowers someone to speak up about relationship violence, or if it helps someone see the warning signs and prevent a relationship from becoming abusive, then tonight was absolutely worth it," Lynchburg Student Athlete Advisory Committee president and men's lacrosse player Stephen Ruppel, one of the workshop's key organizers, said.
Ruppel, now a senior, developed a connection with the One Love Foundation three years ago when several of Lynchburg's student athletes participated in a similar escalation workshop. A native of Baltimore like Yeardley Love, he said the message was especially poignant to him. Ever since that first workshop, Ruppel wanted to help spread One Love's message and take further steps toward eliminating relationship violence.
With the help of other SAAC members and more than three-dozen Lynchburg community members who completed facilitation training, Ruppel played host to the event. They introduced a 45-minute video depicting relationship violence and, following the video, led breakout sessions that encouraged attendees to talk about the warning signs and what they can do when they see them.
"If we can keep relationship violence in the conversation, it makes it that much harder to ignore it," Ruppel said.
Lynchburg is one of nearly 900 college campuses that has held an escalation workshop, reaching more than 13,000 people in total.
To learn more about the One Love Foundation visit www.joinonelove.org.