#ThatsNotLove: Helping teens spot signs of relationship abuse

By Kelly Wallace, CNN

Looking back, Mattis Collier, now 20 and a junior at the University of South Carolina, can see all the warning signs.

“It was a very quick relationship. I didn’t know him very well … but the jealousy, the rage, all of that stuff came pretty soon after,” said Collier about her ex-boyfriend, whom she started dating early in high school.

There was so much isolation, she says, remembering how he went through her phone one time, deleting all of her male friends in her contacts and on Facebook, and how he told her she couldn’t talk to guys or go to parties.

Reluctant to get too specific, she says the relationship was abusive in multiple ways. Ultimately, she cut off communication with him after she started college.

“I was very blind to the situation, and you know, when it’s your first love and all of that, you really think that that kind of thing is, ‘Oh it won’t happen again,’ or ‘He was just so mad,’ or ‘I lied to him so I deserved that,’ but it progressively got worse.”

Yeardley Love was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend in 2010.

This summer, Collier’s father wore a “One Love” baseball cap to support the One Love Foundation – an organization created in honor of Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia lacrosse player who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend just three weeks before she would have graduated in May 2010.

Collier’s father encouraged her to check out the foundation. “I think that was his way of saying, ‘I’m wearing this hat in honor of a girl that was not as lucky as you.’”

So one night she went up to her room and looked up every news article and video she could find about One Love, and made a decision to create a campus organization called Team One Love at her college this past fall. “I was like, ‘OK, if I don’t do this for anyone else, I’m going to do it for myself.’”

Mattis Collier's sign says, "I will never let you go even when you want to. #ThatsNotLove"

There are now 40 active Team One Loves on college campuses across the country and nearly 6,000 Team One Love members. The goal is for the students to take the lead in educating and empowering their peers about the signs and dangers of relationship abuse. It’s all part of a #ThatsNotLove campaign that One Love Foundation officially launched back in October.

‘Every kid has a stake in solving this problem’

 

But this goes way beyond a campaign. The One Love Foundation hopes #ThatsNotLove starts a movement.

“I think the idea behind #ThatsNotLove is how can we think of a lot of different, creative ways to emphasize the same core message, which is that there is a difference between relationships that are about love and relationships that are about control, that you can see in some of the earliest phases of a relationship behaviors that are healthy and unhealthy,” said Katie Hood, chief executive officer of the One Love Foundation.

“We’re trying to sort of make this very clear, that every kid has a stake in solving this problem. Every kid has a stake in working for change and thereby make it easier for people to do so,” she said.

To drill that point home and get to teens and college students where they are — on social media — One Love worked with an outside agency to create “couplets,” eight digital shorts featuring animated emojis, which in a very clear-cut way indicate how intensity, obsession, isolation, disrespect, blame, control, anger and put-downs are most definitely not love.

Since the couplets were launched this month in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Protection Month, they have been viewed nearly 5 million times and counting, according to One Love.

“They demonstrate exactly what we’re trying to say with ‘That’s not love,’ but they do it a lighthearted way,” said Sharon Love, Yeardley’s mother and the founder of the One Love Foundation. “They’re not threatening. They’re very simple but they bring the point home directly.”

Added Lexie Love Hodges, Yeardley’s sister: “They can capture a whole relationship in five seconds.” People don’t always recognize relationship abuse when they read an article about it or listen to someone talk about it, she said, but here they can see the behavior demonstrated in a way they might click with.

“The topic of relationship violence is so heavy. I think that’s why it’s not talked about often and I think that the couplets … make it more approachable for friends to bring it up in a different way,” she said.

In addition to the digital shorts, two public service announcements also titled “That’s Not Love” have been released, and have been viewed more than 5 million times on Facebook and YouTube since October.

‘We were so clueless’

 

Relationship abuse is an issue that was never discussed in her household, Sharon Love said during a phone interview from her home in Baltimore.

“We were so clueless,” she said, adding that she and her family knew nothing about it and didn’t feel like it was a topic they needed to be concerned about either. “We didn’t realize there were signs, and we’re trying to turn that upside down. … The signs are somewhat obvious but they’re masked as love. You can think that they’re madly in love with you when they’re really just trying to control you.”

Love said she also had no idea about the statistics — how one in three women and one in four men will experience some form of physical violence in a relationship in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and how young women 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of domestic partner violence — nearly three times the national average.

“I feel like what we thought of domestic violence was of someone that was married with children, that was stuck in a situation, that was dependent on the abuser and couldn’t get out,” said Love, saying what came to mind was Farrah Fawcett’s portrayal in the movie about domestic violence, “The Burning Bed.”

https://youtu.be/4JYyHa03x-U

“That was like stuck in my head. That’s what relationship violence is,” she said.

It didn’t ever occur to her that relationship abuse could impact young people, let alone that young women in Yeardley’s age group were at the highest risk.

On May 3, 2010, when Yeardley was just 22 and weeks away from her college graduation, Sharon Love awoke to police officers at her front door. Life as she and her family knew it was completely over.

“It was incomprehensible to me that someone I knew, someone that Yeardley cared for, had taken her life,” she wrote last year in a letter posted on the One Love Foundation website. (Yeardley Love’s ex-boyfriend George Huguely was convicted of murder and is currently behind bars.)

The MADD for relationship abuse?

https://youtu.be/2PCsnO2oWV0

 

Determined to raise awareness among teens and help them recognize the warning signs of abusive relationships, Sharon Love started the foundation in the hopes of doing for relationship abuse what Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done for drinking and driving.

“They changed a whole mentality, with generations now thinking it’s appalling to drink and drive. My generation didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “So we’re hoping that relationship violence will be appalling behavior and something that you speak up against right away.”

The foundation created a film called “Escalation,” which showcases a fictional relationship between two students, Paige and Chase, that starts to turn very wrong, very quickly. In the film, Chase wants to be with Paige all the time, gets jealous when she spends time with men, begins to isolate her from her friends and grows increasingly more angry and violent as she starts to pull away. The film has a tragic ending and concludes with photos of young women who in real life were killed by their abusive partners.

I watched the film last year as it was being rolled out on college campuses around the country. It left me shaken and so upset. I watched it again before writing this piece and feel exactly the same way.

So far, the film — along with a 45-minute workshop led by student facilitators — has been shown nearly 700 times at colleges and high schools across the country, with nearly 35,000 students participating. According to Hood of One Love, nearly 90% of students who participated in workshops said they thought it should be required viewing at their school, and 97% said they would recommend it to a friend even if it wasn’t required.

‘Rocketed’ to understanding

 

The goal, an ambitious one, is to have 100% of students on every campus in the U.S. see the film and participate in a workshop, said Hood.

“Because movement is our goal, we just want as many eyeballs to see it as possible,” she said. “We now think that if ultimately we want to change the social climate on campuses, so that people can speak up when they see things, then it can’t just be a pocket of kids that see it. It has to be many, many more.”

I wondered why One Love wouldn’t just release the film on YouTube and allow teens across the country and around the world to see it. Hood said there are two reasons. First, it could be triggering for someone who is an abusive relationship, she said, and you would want to make sure there were resources available or you could communicate to that person what resources are available when they watched it. And second, she said, while the film is powerful, the workshops are more powerful.

“You walk in, you think this has nothing to do with you. And in 38 minutes, which is the length of the film … you’re sort of rocketed to not only understanding the issue, being more aware of it, you recognize that you’ve seen it before,” said Hood. “You have a connection to it.”

Because ultimately, that’s part of the sad reality of relationship abuse. We all most likely know someone who has experienced this.

“It doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just poor people. It’s not just people without fathers or mothers or guidance. It’s everybody. It’s your sorority sister. It’s your friend. It’s your sibling. It’s your child,” said Mattis Collier, who hopes to be able to work with One Love after her graduation in December and then go to law school to work on the issue of domestic violence in college athletics.

“And I think it’s very important for people to realize that you need to talk about it and you need to explain it while you’re younger. It’s not just bruises that are giveaways for an abusive relationship. … It’s how someone talks to you. It’s how someone treats you. It’s how someone talks about you to others.”

Showing people they have a role to play

 

Collier wishes the “Escalation” workshop were required at her high school and college. Right now, just over 40 schools require it with a subset of students, including athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and freshmen, according to One Love.

“I wish that this was a required seminar for high school, for college students, because the lack of knowledge and education awareness in our country is astounding,” said Collier.

As One Love looks to the future, it hopes not only to increase the number of schools where “Escalation” workshops are held and also increase the number of schools where they are required, but also to deepen the engagement of students, with more Team One Loves — more students like Collier facilitating workshops, training students to be workshop facilitators and holding “That’s Not Love” events where they write words on sheets to match what love is and what it is not.

“It may sound crazy to have these ambitious goals about starting a movement and getting to 100% of the kids on college campuses,” said Hood, “but it’s sort of pretty simple what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to just wake people up to their personal connection and get them to develop their voice and understanding that they have a role to play.”

What drives Sharon Love and the rest of her family is trying to prevent what happened to Yeardley from happening to any other young person in a relationship.

“I feel pretty confident already that we are saving lives,” she said. “We’ve gotten so many letters from so many people that have gotten out of a bad situation, and really just one of those letters makes it all worthwhile.”

What do you think is the best way to try to prevent relationship abuse among teenagers? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Health on Twitter or Facebook.

Does Misogyny Lead to Unhealthy Sexuality?

February 16, 2016 by  

To best understand the relationship between misogyny and sexual health I’ll begin this piece with a comprehensive definition for each term.

Misogyny: “[M]isogyny is primarily a property of social systems or environments as a whole, in which women will tend to face hostility of various kinds because they are women in a man’s world  (i.e., a patriarchy), who are held to be failing to live up to men‘s standards (i.e., tenets of patriarchal ideology which have some purchase in this environment)” (Manne, p.2). In other words, misogyny is systemic oppression of women, within patriarchal societies in which women are expected to adhere to patriarchal expectations, otherwise face punishment.

Sexual health: Sexual health “is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled” (World Health Organization, 2006).

We all are aware that sexual health is not something which is explicitly discussed in Muslim communities. However, subtle messages and lessons regarding sexuality and sexual health are being relayed to women constantly and these messages place a heavy burden on them.

  • “Wear a long shirt when you go to the mosque. You don’t want the men to see your curves.”
  • “Don’t get too comfortable/friendly with the boys in your class.”
  • “Keep your voice down in the mosque. The men shouldn’t be able to hear you.”
  • “If a man sees your hair your wudu is invalidated.” (Yes, I was told this once.)
  • “Don’t stay out past dark. People will talk.”
  • “You don’t need to know those things until you get married. And then, your husband will teach you.” (Though this message may not be explicitly stated, there are ways in which this message is relayed.)

None of these statements mention sex or sexuality explicitly, but they all send a clear message. “You, woman, are a sexual being whose curves and voice will sexually excite and distract men, who, upon seeing your hair, will have thoughts so dirty YOUR wudu will be invalidated. Also, getting friendly with the boys in your class will inevitably lead to sexual relations and if you stay out past dark people will assume you’re out there having sex with men. Oh, and if you know about sex before you get married then your husband will assume you were out having sex with men and he won’t respect you. So just let him teach you because he knows from all the sex he was out having with women, like most guys do.”

Women’s sexuality, in Muslim communities, is too often defined in relation to men. The attitudes, views, opinions, and thoughts of men are given priority over the reality of women’s lives. Women’s behaviour is strictly regulated to the meet the patriarchal expectations laid out by men. And, as a result, women’s behaviour is often viewed in sexual terms such that women are policed to behave in ways that do not “force” men to behave in sexually “haram” ways or that ensure people know you are not engaging in “unlawful” sex. When women do not adhere to these expectations, or are assumed to not be adhering to them, they are faced with derision, disrespect, and sometimes ostracization and isolation.

This is misogyny. And enacting this misogyny in the name of religious duty or obligation is a form of spiritual violence, in which women are denied access to religious and spiritual attainment because they fail to meet patriarchal expectations of women’s behaviour.

So how is this misogyny harmful to women’s sexual health? Because it denies women bodily autonomy, having a detrimental impact on the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality. It denies women the choice to decide what is and isn’t sexual, safe, coercive, pleasurable, violence. It conflates non-sexual behaviours (how long our shirts are) with sexual ones and disguises sexually violent ones (coercion) as sexually healthy (sexual education) or natural (men can’t control themselves).

It places the burden of modesty and honour on the shoulders of women,consequently victim-blaming women for any sexual disrespect and sexual violence they may endure.

It assumes women to be recipients of sex placing them in danger of being abused and manipulated, or in a situation of unpleasurable and uncomfortable sex. It shames women regarding their own sexuality and their bodies, a shame which can have an impact on their self-image, including their sexual self-image, and confidence.

So how do we address this? The answer is simple, yet one that meets a lot of resistance. Stop being misogynistic. Obviously, this is much, much easier said than done. We have had centuries of misogyny built into not only our culture, but also our interpretations of religion. This will take a lot of work and will require that we challenge those very patriarchal notions that so many of our values and beliefs are premised upon. But this needs to be done, one little action, one little step at a time, if we want healthy communities.

misogyny-300x181

A few steps to begin this process:

Stop sending girls and women these harmful messages and start sending boys and men messages that instill the unconditional respect of women.

Educate girls and women on sexual health and give them the tools to make their own decisions on what is and isn’t healthy for them.

Stop defining women’s sexuality in relation to men. Women do not exist to sexually please men. It seems like it should not need to be said, but women are whole and holistic people, and sexuality only one part of our being. Let women, and girls, define and decide what we want.

Recognize women’s right to bodily autonomy. A woman can choose to do with her body what she wishes. No one else has the right to decide for her nor to infringe upon her autonomy.

This is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. However, if we, as a community, begin with these few basic steps, we will be on the road to a sexually healthier community.

Sobia Ali-Faisal received her PhD in Applied Psychology from the University of Windsor in 2014. She currently resides in Canada.

Young Men’s Sexual Behavior May Predict Teen Pregnancy Risk, The Kind Of Dad They’ll Be

By 

For years, researchers have investigated young women’s views on motherhood in an effort to reduce teen pregnancies. But in a new study from Northwestern University, they shift their attention to young men and their behavioral patterns, which can shed light not only on their chances of becoming fathers, but also the kind of fathers they’d be.

Past research into young men and sex had primarily focused on the link between risky behaviors and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But co-author Dr. Craig Garfield and his team were more interested in seeing how attitudes toward risky sex, pregnancy, and birth control related to their future parental outcomes. They found teens and young men with more nonchalant attitudes toward sex were more likely to be nonresident fathers — men who didn’t live with their children.

“I was very surprised that, based on what adolescent males tell us in their teenage years, we could predict whether they would later become a teen father or a nonresident father,” said Garfield, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern, in a press release. “We’re expanding male reproductive health across the lifespan and beginning to see how early beliefs relate to later outcomes and health, including fatherhood.”

fatherhood-predictions

The research team interviewed 10,253 male teenagers and young adults. Participants were asked to respond to statements, like “If you had sexual intercourse, your friends would respect you more;” “it wouldn’t be all that bad if you got someone pregnant at this time in your life;” and “using birth control interferes with sexual enjoyment.” Then 20 years later, they followed up with the participants to compare their responses from the initial interview to whether they had a child, if they lived with the child, and their age when they impregnated the mother.

Those who practiced riskier sexual behavior “significantly increased” their odds of becoming a nonresident father, especially when it was an unintended pregnancy, the researchers found. Specifically, young men who were less concerned about risky sex were 30 percent more likely to become a father who did not live with his child. Teens who felt it “wouldn’t be that bad” if they impregnated a girl were 20 percent more likely to become nonresident fathers.

These findings served as a way to predict the likelihood of young men becoming fathers in their teenage years. But they also show a correlation between boys’ attitudes about sex and the type of fathers they’d grow up to be 14 years later. While it’s unclear what causes this correlation, research shows teen fathers are less likely to finish school, and more likely to rely on public assistance and have lower-income jobs throughout their lives.

The researchers also found teenage boys who understood the pros and cons of using birth control were 28 percent less likely to become nonresident fathers, suggesting sex education may help as an intervention. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, young people who receive comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to become pregnant or get a woman pregnant, and significantly more likely to delay a pregnancy and invest time in a planned pregnancy.

But first, Garfield says we must get teen boys to change their views on pregnancy. He says interventions that focus on this will reduce the number of teens who go on to become fathers and reduce their chances of becoming nonresident fathers. “That’s a role the school system and health care workers can play when seeing young men for physicals,” he said. “Together we can help young men think about their futures.”

Source: Garfield C, Duncan G, Peters S, et al. Adolescent Reproductive Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs and Future Fatherhood. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2016.

Testosterone helps older men with low sexual desire, study shows

By Lynne Terry | The Oregonian/OregonLive 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 

When it comes to treating older men with testosterone therapy, physicians have largely been on their own. There just haven’t been any good studies.

That changed Wednesday.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that testosterone therapy boosted the sexual activity and desire in older men with low levels and no health issues.

But the hormone replacement therapy did little to increase their physical ability or energy level.

The study included nearly 800 men aged 65 and older at dozens of academic medical centers, health care institutions and Veterans Affairs facilities from Seattle to Boston. All of them had low testosterone levels and symptoms such as low sexual desire. They also had no health issues that would mean they shouldn’t get testosterone, such as cardiovascular problems or high levels of a protein produced by the prostate.

Over a year, one group received a testosterone gel that raised their levels to that of a 19 -to 40-year-old. The others got a placebo. The men participated in trials that measured sexual function, physical ability and vitality, or energy level.

They took a quiz every three months. The questionnaires showed that men in the testosterone replacement group experienced an increase in sexual activity, desire and erectile function compared with the placebo group. They also reported an improved mood but the results were minimal, said Dr. Eric Orwoll, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University.

“It’s not like they went from sad to overwhelmingly happy,” said Orwoll, who wrote an accompanying editorial about the study.

Men reported enjoying exercise more, but the testosterone group didn’t fare better in a six-minute walking test compared to the placebo group. The testosterone therapy didn’t affect their energy level, either.

Though the results weren’t dramatic, the study did break new ground, Orwoll said.

“This is the first really well done study,” Orwoll said. “That in and of itself is really important.”

He said it will give physicians solid data to help them guide a discussion with patients about whether testosterone therapy is the right choice for them.

He cautioned that the results only apply to men who have the same characteristics as the study group. It doesn’t apply to men with normal testosterone levels.

The likely benefactors: men with low testosterone levels who have complaints about sexual function, Orwoll said.

“We know that testosterone therapy is safe for a year,” Orwoll said.

There were four cases of prostate cancer diagnosed during the study. But the group wasn’t large enough to conclude an association with the testosterone therapy, the study said. Researchers also noted that men with a high risk of developing prostate cancer were excluded along with those with moderately severe urinary tract symptoms.

More studies are needed to determine any potential long-term risks and effects, Orwoll said.

“There are a lot of other things that testosterone might have an effect on like anemia or bone strength,” Orwoll said. “There are a lot of still unanswered questions out there.”

Men urged to use a condom as sexual transmission of Zika detected

Health officials have warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where Zika is present. “Because how can they ask those women not to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?”

Active transmission of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, has occurred in more than two dozen countries and territories in the Americas and Caribbean.

Rockland health officials said she contracted the virus there, not in NY, where it is too cold for mosquito activity.

The new infections bring the number of Zika cases in Florida to nine.

The virus has been linked to the birth defect Microcephaly, which prevents fetus’ brains from developing properly. TheCDC had suggested testing only for those woman who were experiencing symptoms of infection.

Colombian health officials reported the deaths of a man and a women in second city, Medellin, on Thursday after they were confirmed to be carriers of Zika and showed symptoms of the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Panama’s Health Ministry has reached out to an indigenous community to the northeast of the Central American nation following some 50 reported cases of Zika.

Garrett also said it is not a matter of if, but when, Zika starts to spread in North America. The CDC still is reviewing data on whether the virus can be transmitted through saliva and urine and is not making a recommendation related to those fluids at this time, according to Dr. Frieden.

Day and Ruppert said that there is no risk of transmission of the disease in the county, which causes low-grade fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis in most patients.

Gavel said more tests need to be carried out to definitively confirm the above-mentioned hypothesis.

The virus is thought to remain in an infected person’s blood for a week or less.

“This virus, which only recently arrived in Brazil and Latin America, no longer is a distant nightmare but a real threat to all Brazilians’ homes”, Rousseff said in a nationally televised message.