The topic of relationship abuse is one that has remained in the dark for too long. And in an age so deeply rooted in social media, it has become easier than ever to keep abusive relationships hidden behind seemingly picture-perfect posts. After gaining the insight that young people look back to those posts—and the "likes" they’ve accumulated—to validate their relationships, we wanted to show that you can’t always see the big picture through the small ones. So we created a campaign to highlight the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and the role social media plays in it, all to remind viewers that real life happens behind the post.
WHY THIS CAUSE
The stats on relationship abuse are staggering. One in three women, and one in four men, will experience relationship abuse in their lifetime—and the majority of people have limited awareness of this issue. But we believe those numbers can change. The entire reason One Love exists is because Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia student athlete, was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend just weeks before graduation. We believe Yeardley’s death could have been avoided had anyone understood the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. So if we can create awareness around those warning signs, we can empower people to walk away from abusive relationships before they escalate to a place of physical violence and, in doing so, save lives.
One of the most important conversations we had in creating this campaign was about the notion that both parties in a relationship can exhibit unhealthy behaviors. In fact, one person’s unhealthy behaviors can often bring out those in his or her significant other. And, oftentimes, because both parties are exhibiting unhealthy behaviors, young people don’t even realize they’re in an abusive relationship. So, while the male in our campaign ultimately shows the more frightening signs of abuse, it was crucial for us to highlight both people displaying unhealthy behaviors as a means to start the conversation.
WHAT WE LEARNED
While we were confident that the scenarios of unhealthy relationship behaviors felt representative of an abusive relationship, we never could have guessed how many people saw themselves—or their loved ones—in these videos. The comment section on social media was filled with people tagging friends and family in the videos, in hopes of encouraging them to watch and recognize how similar these scripted scenarios were to their very real relationships. And people didn’t stop with watching the videos. In fact, the average person who watched the videos went on to navigate to the "10 Signs of a Healthy Relationship" on a completely different page of our website. On behindthepost.org, more than 1,000 people downloaded our Behind the Post discussion guide, which has additional teaching points to help people start the conversation with friends and loved ones. We were both humbled and overjoyed to have created a platform that has served as such a beautiful community of support and dialogue for those who’ve experienced relationship abuse.
THE MOST REWARDING PART
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect was young people’s response to the campaign. From comments on social media to private messages sent directly to One Love, young people everywhere were overwhelmingly affected by the work in positive ways. For some, it opened their eyes to unhealthy behaviors in their own relationships—whether perpetrated by themselves or by their significant others—and gave them the courage to get out or change their ways. For many, it was a way to help their friends by tagging them in the incredibly relatable videos so that they might recognize the abusive tendencies in their relationships. And for others, it empowered them to stop feeling ashamed of their past, painful experiences, and to share their own personal #behindthepost stories.
Here is just a small handful of some of the messages we received: