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Dr. Lori Hart & Healthy Relationships 

WRITTEN BY Mattie Hayden

A take on healthy relationships according to Dr. Lori Hart during Sexual Assault Awareness month.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a college woman, it’s not rare to hear or experience sexual assault, harrassment or abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from 1995 to 2013, females ages 18 to 24 were the highest rate of sexual assault victims compared to any other group.

On April 12, UTK Panhellenic hosted Dr. Lori Hart to discuss the topic of sexual assault awareness and healthy realationships. As a nationally accredited speaker, Hart approached the topic with respect to the panhellenic women who came to learn and listen. 

Her program, coined the “The Drunk Feminist,” began with a conversation on defining “feminism.” Hart asked each person in the room clap in accordance with how they themselves associated with the term – clap once if you associate as a feminist and know about the topic, clap twice if you are in the middle and clap three times if you do not know much about it. 

After this, audience members relayed that they believed it meant equal opportunity and equity among all. 

Hart harped on the power of choice. We all have a choice, whether that means to join an organization or drink another beer. The topic of choice converged into an anecdote pertaining to alcohol education. The story involved a date which turned out to be a drinking opportunity.

Through this story and powerful graphics, Hart explained that women biologically metabolize alcohol differently than men. The woman in the story attempted to keep up with the man and hold her alcohol. However, this attempt ended up putting her in a dangerous situation, one in which she was unable to make informed choices.

This story resonated with many women in the room. As a college student, one is often experiencing alcohol for the first time. Education around alcohol is not prevalent for many students, or they may not realize the differences alcohol has on the different sexes. 

“I think that every woman needs to have access to the information about how we as women metabolize alcohol, in order to keep us safe,” Hart said. 

Hart also emphasized that prevention is possible. In 80% of sexual assault victimizations, the offender was known by the victim. She highlighted that having a plan is necessary when going out, and as a friend, or a sorority sister, you should never leave those who came with you, despite them being with someone known to them.

Another topic that carried a lot of weight was communication. One can not merely assume that their partner can read their thoughts – although we wished they did.

“If you are hungry, let them know you are hungry. If you don’t want to drink, let them know that you do not want to drink,” Hart said.

Know that our voices matter and we should communicate our needs. One student in particular relayed that she has felt unheard in her organization in the past.

“I enjoyed hearing about her tips and the big things to look for when communicating with people and how they can tell you about the strength of the relationship,” Katie Pendergast said.

As a panhellenic woman, or merely a woman of the world, it is important to be there for others. When joining an organization, this should mean joining a support group. Hart encouraged all women to be that person for others in their organization.

“If someone is sitting alone, go sit with them,” Hart said. 

When it comes to healthy relationships, Hart mentioned a study conducted by Dr. Gottman in 1992, which predicted a divorce rate with 94% accuracy. He was able to predict this accuracy through body language. Those who turned into their partner and accepted them when they spoke tended to stay married, but those who turned away did not.

Two forms of negativity she mentioned that are detrimental to relationships are criticism and contempt. No relationship founded on these qualities will last. Rather, turn toward one another in a conversational pattern that reflects interest, respect and acknowledgement.

As a woman of the world, it is important to be aware. “The Drunk Feminist” emphasizes that respect, communication, choice and education build healthy relationships with oneself, friends and partners. 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month may have come to a close, but action against assault should not. The University of Tennessee reminds students they are not alone and there are resources, such as the Office of Title IX.

For more facts and information, check out these resources: 

https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf

https://reallifecounseling.us/predict-divorce-gottman/

https://www.thecatalystagency.us/hart-programs