Workshop shares signs of unhealthy relationships


FERDINAND — Crisis Connection Child Prevention Specialist Angie Hostetter knew the film she was about to share with seniors at Forest Park Junior-Senior High School would be heavy.

The film, “Escalation,” shows a college dating relationship as it becomes unhealthy and abusive, ultimately ending with the man murdering the woman after she breaks up with him. It shows emotional, mental and physical abuse, and hints at sexual abuse, as well, all with the goal of teaching viewers the signs of an abusive relationship and when to step in to help a loved one.

The film is part of a workshop series designed by the One Love Foundation that local nonprofit Crisis Connection began offering this year.

Crisis Connection serves local victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and runs prevention education programs in the community. Crisis Connection often uses material from One Love, which was founded in honor of Yeardley Love, a woman who was killed in 2009 at age 22 by an ex-boyfriend.

Love wasn’t alone in her situation. According to statistics on One Love’s website, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be in an abusive relationship in their lifetimes. Yeardley’s mother, Sharon, and sister, Lexi, founded One Love with the mission to teach young adults about healthy and unhealthy relationships so they can recognize the signs of abuse and hopefully avoid Yeardley’s fate.   

Although the film depicts a white, heterosexual couple where the male was the abuser, Hostetter stressed that any romantic relationship can be abusive, and women can be abusers, too.

“It was very informative and really shows how some relationships can be,” Jace Bieker of St. Anthony said after the film. “Things you don’t even realize.”

One of the earliest signs shown in the film, for example, were frequent texts from the man saying he was thinking about the woman. Then, he starts showing up wherever she is, which seems romantic until he becomes controlling.

After watching the film, the students broke into small groups to debrief with a Crisis Connection staff member.

In Hostetter’s group, the students said they didn’t expect it to end in murder. They were also surprised at how quickly the relationship progressed. It’s three months from the moment the fictitious couple meet to the woman’s death. Such a fast time frame is common in unhealthy relationships, Hostetter told the students.

Also common in unhealthy relationships are risque photographs. The film depicts the man pressuring the woman to let him take photos of her before a college break, and Hostetter made sure to bring up that scene up with her group.

“These pictures are dangerous,” Hostetter said. “Any relationship we deal with at Crisis Connection, these pictures come into play.”

The “Escalation” workshops are new to Crisis Connection’s offerings. So far, staff members offered the workshop at Northeast Dubois High School and to the public. Eventually, they’d like to offer the workshop in all area high schools, especially to the seniors.

“We’re seeing [unhealthy relationships] a lot in college,” Hostetter said. “So we want to share the information with the seniors before they leave home.”

Lastly, Hostetter’s group talked about the couple’s friends who saw things that made them uncomfortable, but never stepped in. If they ever find themselves in a situation like the one in the film, the students hoped they’d step in and talk to their friends.

“They might have a smile,” said Anthony Brandenburg of Jasper. “But you never know what’s going on.”

More on