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DRS Hosts Workshop on Ending Toxic Relationships and Advocating for Disability Community

The Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at the University of Memphis hosted a workshop called the “One Love Workshop: Healthy Relationships & the Disability Community” on March 26.

DSR brought a speaker from the One Love Foundation, a nonprofit that educates students from elementary age through college on the importance of recognizing healthy relationship characteristics and the warning signs of unhealthy relationships.

The speaker discussed an array of topics, including relationship abuse and disability abuse.

Prevention specialist Regina Millen said, “We empower young people with tools and resources to see the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships and bring life-saving prevention education to their communities.”

To guide students and aid them in understanding their strong emotions, DRS provided students with a workshop dedicated to healthy skills they can adopt to navigate passionate feelings they have for their partners.

“One big common misconception is that things like jealousy, possessiveness and intensity can be seen as romantic or desirable,” Millen said. “This misconception is seen a lot in TV shows, movies, music, etc. Unfortunately, these are not romantic traits and does not mean that someone truly loves their partner if they display these behaviors. In fact, they can make a relationship turn toxic or dangerous should those behaviors escalate.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence or stalking.

One major topic that the workshop focused on was how you can help yourself or a friend experiencing relationship abuse.

“If it is happening to a friend, it’s important to be there for them in an appropriate manner. Don’t try to make their decisions for them or give advice,” said Millen. “This can feel pushy and be a ‘turn off,’ making the friend feel defensive. Instead, be a listening ear, let them know you’re there for them, and have some resources ready to give them should they decide they’re ready to try and leave the relationship. This won’t bea single conversation, rather, it will probably be ongoing.”

The workshop also presented students with campus and community resources they can use to overcome relationship abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse, reach out to the Student Health and Counseling Services.

While the workshop focused on relationship abuse, it also focused on improving relationships within the disability community.

People with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual violence and intimate partner violence than those who do not have disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Helping people with disabilities navigate relationship abuse is the same as helping those who do not have disabilities. The workshop focused on how non-disabled members of society can improve and foster their relationships with the disability community.

It is crucial to remember that disabilities can be physical or cognitive, visible or invisible.

“While there might be some commonalities between people with certain disabilities, everyone has their own individual experiences,” said Millen.

Millen provided some words of advice when talking to anyone, including those with disabilities.

“Use inclusive, non-ableist language and don’t infantilize. Respect their autonomy and independence. Don’t minimize or diminish the struggles that might come from having a disability. Consider accessibility when going somewhere or doing an activity. Don’t generalize people with disabilities,” Millen said.

“I loved the workshop’s atmosphere. It felt like a very safe space to share the struggles and successes in relationships concerning disabled people,” said Gozie Okafor, a health sciences pre-dermatology student at the UofM. “The workshop was very impactful. The goal is to maintain healthy relationships by spotting the warning signs, ableism and where to access resources.”

Students can reach out to Disability Resources for Students for more information on resources for disabilities.

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