📣 Locals to Know: Charisma O’Keefe of Love Doesn’t Hurt, Inc.

It’s time for our weekly installment of Pulptown’s Locals to Know series, where we cede the spotlight to a local person or organization who’s made their mark on the larger Orlando community. Keep an eye out over the weeks to come for more of these interviews, and if you know of a person or organization that we ought to feature, don’t hesitate to send them our way.

Today we’re chatting with Charisma O’Keefe, co-founder and co-president of Love Doesn’t Hurt, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to ending teen dating violence and supporting those affected through education, empowerment, and community support. The local org’s on a mission to reach all adolescents to empower and embolden them with developing healthy dating relationships. 

First things first, who’s behind Love Doesn’t Hurt, Inc.?

Love Doesn’t Hurt was founded by Anna Astwood and me. After experiencing teen dating violence ourselves and meeting so many fellow survivors that were not able to start healing until adulthood, we decided we wanted to help prevent teen dating violence as well as assist other survivors in healing. We believe that survivors can be empowered to live an abuse-free life and can heal through the help of counseling and community support. We also believe that dating violence can be prevented through education and awareness. 

What’s your one piece of advice to a parent who suspects their child is involved in an abusive relationship? 

If you suspect your child is involved in an abusive relationship, be open, honest, and patient with your child and let them know that the abuse they are experiencing is not their fault. Then reach out to a counselor, therapist, or organization like Love Doesn’t Hurt for guidance. 

What’s the one thing you wish you’d heard/done differently in your own previous abusive relationships? 

We wish we would have heard all of the messaging from Love Doesn’t Hurt as preteens, which is why we created it. It’s important to know at that age that abuse is never your fault and you deserve to be safe and happy.  

If you could tell a teen being abused anything, what would it be and why?  

Being a survivor of abuse is not your fault. The abusive actions of someone else are not your fault. Whether the abuse is physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional, the person who is abusive is always at fault. You deserve to live a life free of abuse and even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, you can experience completely healthy relationships. The shame of abuse is not yours to carry, that shame belongs to the abuser. Don’t stay silent. Tell someone who can help you to stay safe from your abuser and help you to live an empowered life. 

If you could tell the teen abuser anything, what would it be and why? 

Abuse is never acceptable, no matter how upset you are, how insecure you are, or what you have been through. If you are abusing others, seek counseling immediately and learn positive ways to express yourself and communicate. 

Share a statistic about teen dating violence that will blow our minds and spring us into action. 

Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner — a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.

What’s one thing anyone reading this can do right now that will help make a difference in teen dating violence for years to come? 

If you have a teen or preteen in your life, talk to them about green flags and how to find them in healthy relationships. Discuss examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships and explain in detail what healthy communication looks like. Having these conversations can be challenging at first so if you need guidance, reach out to Love Doesn’t Hurt for resources. 

What resources (book, movie, podcast) will help our readers better understand teen dating violence?

To understand teen dating violence better, read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, watch the movies No One Would Tell and Speak, or read educational material from Love Doesn’t Hurt. 

Any other orgs in the area working in a similar space that we should know about? 

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other organizations in the area that are focused specifically on teen dating violence, which is exactly why we wanted to start Love Doesn’t Hurt. There are so many organizations that do important work regarding domestic violence and adults but not any in our area that focus specifically on teens. 

How can Pulptown readers best support Love Doesn’t Hurt, Inc. at this moment? 

The best way to support Love Doesn’t Hurt in our mission to end teen dating violence is to reach out to your local school and ask them if they have any plans to teach students about teen dating violence. Love Doesn’t Hurt provides educational materials as well as video and in-person presentations on the prevention of teen dating violence as well as navigating your way out of an abusive relationship. If someone wants to go above and beyond, they can start a chapter of Love Doesn’t Hurt at their school or community center. Love Doesn’t Hurt provides the materials for monthly chapter meetings so that active chapters can learn about healthy relationships and empowerment while taking actionable steps towards ending teen dating violence. You can also donate to the org here and help contribute to its mission.

Does Love Doesn’t Hurt have anything coming up that it’d want our readers to know about? 

During the last Saturday of the month, we usually have events in Central Florida to benefit Love Doesn’t Hurt. Just this past weekend, we held a fundraiser at Bento, and coming up, we’ll host a pop-up event at Good Crowd and a paint night at Painting with a Twist. Follow our Instagram or Facebook page for more updates on events! 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can start by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233. En Español: 1.800.787.3224.

Interested in being featured and want to share your own cool project in the City Beautiful? Send an email to hello@pulp.town with the subject line “PT Locals to Know 2022” and you just might see yourself in a future newsletter.