Leveraging Pets to End Relationship Violence

Every pet has its own way of showing it, but most of them have mastered the art of expressing true love for their humans. We sometimes wonder if humans could ever learn more from our furry friends on how to love better, love stronger and love unconditionally. But then we stumbled upon a very creative campaign leveraging pets which changed our thinking entirely. Instead of pets showing humans how to love, it uses a creative and positive twist that helps us think about what is, ironically, NOT love. All because of an outreach organization called One Love.

Leveraging pets to end relationship violence

Creating a Foundation That Teaches Young People About Real Love

In May 2010, Yeardley Love, a lacrosse player from the University of Virginia, was beaten to death by her boyfriend three weeks prior to her college graduation. In honor of her daughter, Sharon Love launched a foundation called One Love which "educates young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships so that they may seek help before an abusive relationship escalates to violence.” Learn more about the life of Yeardley and One Love’s Mission by checking out this video:

Working to Define the Gray Areas

It doesn’t take an expert to understand that relationships are very complex. It’s not black and white - it has a lot of gray areas that can be difficult to analyze whether you are in the relationship or just observing one. One Love focuses on defining these gray areas to help girls and boys, plus men and women alike, acknowledge abuse in its many different forms with their #ThatsNotLove campaign. Statistics show that 1 in every 3 females and 1 in every 4 males will experience relationship violence in their lifetime and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicates that this most likely occurs between the ages of 18-24. Read about 10 signs of relationship abuse, which is just one element to One Love's #ThatsNotLove campaign. 

One Love uses social platforms to launch digital campaigns (like #ThatsNotLove) in order to help spread the word to young people primarily throughout the U.S., but because of social media, it can have a global reach. There are some amazingly creative and eye-opening videos on One Love's YouTube channel, but here's one example of how they are helping their audience understand those gray areas that are NOT okay in relationships.

Leveraging Pets for Relationship Education

While the entire campaign undoubtedly comes from a passionate organization that puts thoughtfulness and factual research into their educational mediums, at PETculiar, we are PETicularly in favor of the approach that leans on the nature of our pets to educate their audience. 

The One Love organization launched the #OKForPetsNotPartners initiative as part of their #ThatsNotLove campaign in 2016. It's a meme generator that users can share with their friends on their social feeds that has a positive spin on advocacy and education...and we are in love with it. 

It's okay for your pet to be territorial of you, but it's not okay for your partner to be. It's okay for your pet to stare obsessively at you, but it's not okay for your partner to. Make sense? Here are some of the memes that have been created:

We definitely encourage you to create your own #OkForPetsNotPartners meme and share it with your friends too! 


I spoke with Serena Sidawi, the digital and communications manager of One Love, to learn more about the organization and how the idea for leveraging pets came to fruition. Check it out:

About One Love

It looks like you have a focus to reach a younger audience high schools and college campuses. Any other target audiences?

  • Our primary target is young people in high school and college but we also work with communities and parents all over the country.

Does One Love have an international reach? Do the statistics reflect just the U.S. or is it global?

  • When it comes to our programmatic work, our focus remains on the U.S. However, our online content can be accessed all over the world and we see from our website analytics and social media that people in other countries are engaging with our content and sharing it. The statistics on our website reflect the U.S., but relationship abuse truly is a global epidemic.

Once someone learns the signs of abuse, what are your recommendations on next steps? Are you a resource for people to reach out to like a hotline or just a education platform?

  • There are lots of amazing resources out there to help anyone who may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. We list a few of our partner resources on our website at www.joinonelove.org/real_time_resources  We also have a safety planning app available which you can download at www.joinonelove.org/my_plan_app Safety planning is absolutely crucial for anyone in an abusive relationship as the most dangerous time in any abusive relationship is post break up. A safety plan is a personalized plan to help anyone in an abusive relationship remove themselves from potentially dangerous situations. At this time, we focus on educating young people and empowering them to create change in their communities. We do not offer support services or a hotline. 

I see that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are impacted by domestic violence. Can you help us understand what falls under the category of domestic violence? 

Domestic violence can be more complicated and less obvious than just - let's say, physical abuse. How do you help illustrate that for people? Which approach is the most impactful?

  • We find that approaching the issue of abuse from a standpoint of healthy vs unhealthy relationships allows us to cast the widest net. When people hear about domestic violence, they might think that’s an issue that doesn’t apply to them because of how it has been traditionally approached. But healthy and unhealthy relationships is something that everyone can relate to. Many times, those in unhealthy or abusive relationships don’t realize that what they are experiencing is unhealthy or abusive. We help people identify and understand unhealthy or abusive behaviors through our content like the Escalation Workshop and #ThatsNotLove campaign.

After looking more into what One Love is about, I am recognizing how complex relationship violence can be. There’s a LOT of gray area! What does the team at One Love do to stay informed and learn more about this topic?

  • We have people on the ground who work with students and communities across the country. They are our eyes and ears on this topic. We also have a great team of people who work at the national level and do lots of research to better understand how the issue of relationship abuse affects young people. There are so many new technologies and factors that make the lines of what is healthy vs unhealthy even harder to identify, but we are working to actively help define that grey area.

You have such a strong and wonderful campaign to help people find those (gray area) signals that they are in a violent relationship. Do you believe this also helps prevent people from becoming an abuser? Have you ever had anyone recognize they were being abusive?

  • Actually yes! We never expected people to come forward and self identify as abusers, but this does happen. We do our best to make this topic approachable for all people and get help to anyone who needs it.

It looks like you partake in many creative and unique campaigns. Where do the ideas come from - staff or your audience?

  • We work with some incredible partners like Media Arts Lab (MAL) for Good and TBWA who help us create A+ content that can resonate with and engage young people.


What was the inspiration for the #OKForPetsNotPartners campaign? When and how did it all start?

  • This campaign is actually part of a much larger #ThatsNotLove campaign, which MAL for Good helped us to create. They’ve been incredible throughout the entire process, coming up with the concepts for each chapter of the campaign and leading the charge to create the scripts, cast or create the graphics, and execute on the vision with our help. With the #OKforPetsNotPartners chapter, we wanted to give people the chance to actually take part in the #ThatsNotLove campaign by allowing them to create memes to showcase behaviors that are acceptable for pets to do but not acceptable for partners! The campaign uses a meme generator to show behaviors that are OK for pets to do, but not OK for partners. Pets can and will take advantage of our love. And we forgive them because they’re cute and fluffy and don’t know any better. But people should know better.

How long has that campaign been running? Any plans on an end date?

  • This campaign launched in November of 2016. We don’t currently have plans for an end date as the intention behind all of our #ThatsNotLove campaigns is to provide content that students and communities can use to educate their peers.

How many people have participated in the campaign and what is the average number of images each individual creates? Is that data available?

  • Over 6,272 memes were created and then shared to educate others about the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Unfortunately, we don’t have data on the average number of images each individual created. We were very impressed with everyone who used this campaign as an opportunity to talk about a difficult topic.

What has the #OKforPetsNotPartners campaign accomplished that other campaigns have not? (If applicable).

  • This campaign allowed people to directly participate in our #ThatsNotLove campaign by creating their own memes. Previously, all of our #ThatsNotLove campaign chapters were videos that people could watch and share, but this campaign was unique because people could co-create the campaign with us. Part of what we strive to do is to give people the tools they need to educate their peers and communities about this issue, and we felt like this campaign really did a great job of accomplishing this.

It can be a lot of fun to see your own work or idea showcased. If looks like you showcase examples of memes that people make themselves. How often do you select some and why do you select them?

  • Honestly, we just picked our favorites to showcase! We love the memes we got and there were so many amazing ones that it was hard to pick, but we continuously showcase a meme from the campaign every now and then. After all it’s a great way to show what an unhealthy relationship behavior looks like!

Any great stories about how the OKForPetsNotPartners campaign helps someone out of an abusive relationship? Anything we can share? 

  • We get messages all the time about how people have gotten out of abusive relationships because of our content. I don’t think we can tie them back to this campaign in particular since a lot of the messages we got around this time stated that it was our page that helped, but even if we can help one person that makes the entire thing worth it. We know that having conversations and sharing messages about the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship really does make an impact; especially if a friend is experiencing any of the unhealthy relationship behaviors. 

Any other interesting facts or impactful details that you would like to share with me?


Find a way to participate! 

One Love’s mission is to lower the statistics and end relationship violence through education and spreading awareness. If you are interested in learning more about the movement or want to be a part of this mission, check out JoinOneLove.org for more details.