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Yards for Yeardley

One simple act, like participating in Yards for Yeardley, is just one small step toward ending relationship violence.

Every April, a social movement called Yards for Yeardley takes place on many college campuses, where communities walk together to bring awareness to the issue of relationship violence. Partnered and created with the One Love Foundation, Yards for Yeardley not only works to spark a movement to combat sexual assault and stand up for its victims, but it also brings communities together to reach a common goal of social awareness.

Yards for Yeardley was created by three young women on sports teams in Boston College and the University of Virginia, following the tragic death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Love, who was just three weeks shy of graduating, was fatally beaten by her ex-boyfriend.

Set to take on the world after graduation, Love was an active lacrosse player and was a part of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. Currently, a trial for the wrongful death of Love against her ex-boyfriend is still pending and should happen in late July of this year.

Yard For Yeardley
UVA lacrosse star Yeardley Love (Image via Wikipedia)

Love’s sudden death shook everyone who knew her to their cores; how could someone’s life be taken in such a demoralizing and heinous way? Months after Love’s death in 2010, the One Love Foundation was created; its name includes her last name and the number she wore on the UVA lacrosse field.

The One Love Foundation exists to educate communities of young people about healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors and to empower them to start conversations about these devastating yet, very important occurrences of relationship violence. Yards for Yeardley is just one of the social movements made to create conversation starters and bring people together.

The December 2014 event hosted by the Boston College and UVA lacrosse teammates was a simple act of community unity but also an act of awareness that called for action to be taken against relationship violence.

Slowly becoming a national headline, many SUNY campuses and other colleges participate in the challenge to walk millions of yards to bring awareness to relationship violence, to Love herself and to the many of the victims who were taken so young because of relationship violence.

The SUNY Athletics coordinators who put on the event encourage all students to participate and walk the most yards as a competition. Pledging a couple million yards to walk/run as a campus, each school hosts their Yards for Yeardley and have thousands of students walk together as one unit, counting each yard as they hope will bring awareness to people who have experienced relationship violence and to those who are currently in an abusive relationship.

The event makes a serious topic fun and easily brings people together as an informative movement. Walk, run, bike ride or swim, Yards for Yeardley is designed to raise awareness and to also help fundraise for the One Love Foundation.

Statistically, 43 percent of college women who are in a relationship have reported cases of violent and abusive behavior. For many young people, it is difficult to identify a violent relationship, which is a problem that leads many down an unknown path. Women in college are just one of the many groups who do not commonly know of the issues that come from dating violence.

Young people between the ages of 16 – 24 experience very high rates of intimate-partner violence; this astounding statement, from the website Love is Respect, really puts into perspective just how prevalent these relationship issues are.

There are some warning signs, though, that might help young people identify an unhealthy or abusive relationship. In many cases, a warning sign could either be seen as abusive or unhealthy, depending on the relationship itself.

Break the Cycle lists off some of the signs of dating abuse: a significant other checking a partner’s social media all the time, using cell phones and emails without permission, showing extreme jealousy, having constant mood swings towards their partner or repeatedly pressuring them into having sex.

Dating abuse and domestic violence are also closely related to sexual assault, as many women who are in a violent relationship are also sexually assaulted at times by the same partner. For One Love, the educational component that stems out of their foundation is used to teach and show others how to advocate for awareness of these abuses.

The One Love Foundation’s website is a great resource to start your pledge against relationship violence. They offer Escalation Workshops and provide teaching pieces that help identify healthy and unhealthy relationships – and these are just some of the ways they engage in conversations about relationship violence.

One Love Foundation
The One Love Foundation is dedicated to ending relationship violence and helping victims (Image via Odyssey)

Hashtag movements, like #ThatsNotLove, are made to get people to start their own conversations, while also keeping the message of advocacy alive. In one section of the website, the #ThatsNotLove campaign looks into the different components of relationships that show unhealthy and abusive behaviors.

Everyone deserves a healthy and loving relationship and the One Love Foundation is just one of the many places where you get to learn and be a leader in the fight to end relationship violence.

If you’re looking to be an advocate, pledging a call to action and learning about warning signs is a step in the right direction to make sure that people’s voices are heard. You can also host events like Yards for Yeardley, where your and your community’s voices can combine to combat relationship violence.

On my campus, every athlete and student came together to walk over four million yards for Yeardley two weekends ago. Yards for Yeardley is like an unstoppable force – it’s a movement that everyone can come together to participate in and will exist for many years to come.

If you do not know about Yards for Yeardley or the One Love Foundation in general, please visit their website. Take the pledge and become a voice for those who need it – remember that your voice matters and your relationships matter as well, so take care of them and yourself using these uniting social movements.

Writer Profile

Gillian Farnan

SUNY Cortland
Professional Writing and History


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