February is Healthy Relationships Month on Campus


Courtesy of Villanova Photography/Olivia Gordon

This month is all about healthy relationships on campus.

Emma Cahill, Staff Writer

This February, the Office of Health Promotion will host events for Healthy Relationships Month. As one of the Office of Health Promotion’s three awareness months (all of which tie back to relationships and sexual violence), these events aim to teach students how to handle these connections in college. Whether the task is beginning, managing or ending unhealthy relationships, it can be tough to juggle personal lives with heavy course loads and hectic social lives. 

The director of Villanova’s Office of Health Promotion, Stacy Andes, and graduate student Gabrielle Southworth planned these events to help students out with this issue. As collaborators on this project, Andes and Southworth share their insight on these events and how they will help students master the art of a healthy relationship in college, particularly during this time of year. 

“Especially during this time of month when Valentine’s Day comes up, people are thinking about relationships naturally, so we should also talk about what a healthy relationship looks like,” Andes said. 

Each event held by the Office of Health Promotion has a specific role in teaching students how to maintain flourishing relationships. First, the Sex in the Dark Intercollegiate Virtual Workshop aims to teach students from colleges in the greater Philadelphia area about how to navigate a healthy sexual life. This event gives students an anonymous platform to voice their questions without fear of embarrassment due to the stigma surrounding discussions about sexual health.

Another event in this program is the What About Us? Dinner, Listening Circle and Training. Held by student organization POWER, this event brings students together in small groups as a forum to share their stories and lived experiences about sexual violence. Following the dinner and listening circle is a panel held by survivors of sexual assault. The training through this event seeks to bring about discussions about sexual violence and the intersectionality of identity and teach students to make an impact.

Next, the Escalation Workshop hosted by the club One Love is a film showing. This film walks students through the characters’ relationship and how it escalates into a toxic one. Following the film is a discussion in which students process the film with their peers. This event is significant because it teaches students to see the red flags in a relationship before it becomes toxic.

One striking event within this initiative is Take Back the Swipe, an engaging conversation about sexual violence on dating apps. Southworth created Take Back the Swipe following her own experiences with the issue of sexual violence on dating apps. 

“I was frustrated because I felt like not a lot of people were talking about this issue,” Southworth said. “It wasn’t included in any prevention education efforts, and I wanted to hear from survivors themselves as well. So, I created this presentation that includes topics like consent on dating apps and includes red flags and green flags and survivor stories and resources on and off-campus.”

Southworth also stressed that this event is a valuable experience, whether or not students are using dating apps. This event teaches students how to combat sexual violence through dating apps on campus, and it trains them to help a friend if they are going through this issue. 

Underlying all of these events that aim to teach students about healthy relationships is one core theme: to have good relationships with others, one must have a good relationship with oneself.  

“So much about being in a relationship [with] other people is understanding what we want, or what we’re comfortable with, or what we’re not comfortable with, and being able to communicate those boundaries,” Andes said. “Those things are really core to the relationships we have [with] other people.”

The event Meal of Mindfulness focuses on the relationship one has with oneself. This event covers a discussion of mindfulness and how to practice it. It  touches on how individuals maintain mindful eating habits to promote a good relationship with oneself and one’s body.

Particularly for college students, maintaining healthy relationships is very important. College is a time when students are still getting to know themselves, which can put added pressure on forming relationships. Students learn more about themselves and how they interact with others when they take the time to learn about this topic. 

“Your college experience can be a truly formative one,” Southworth said. “It’s the time you’re discovering yourself and what’s important to you.”

However, these initiatives are not one-time events, as the project aims to push students to keep the conversation going. The Office of Health Promotion is hosting these events in the hopes that students can take something from them and spread that knowledge to others. 

“It’s about meeting students where they are and planting the seed,” Southworth said. “I think it is our job to plant some of the seeds that will resonate among certain students and then students take that and pass that along.”

Southworth also mentions that the club One Love is dedicated to having these conversations about relationships and sexual violence here at Villanova. By joining One Love, students can keep the spotlight on this topic and continue to spread awareness. 

Overall, the Healthy Relationships Month initiative is a great way to impact the way students form their relationships and teach them to create healthy bonds.