Houston duo teams up to teach teens about real love

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Love is a word that's thrown around everywhere you turn, from movies to high school crushes.

It's powerful, it's unparalleled, and in its purest form, it's kind. That's the message Jillian "JJ" Simmons and Jay Barnett are taking on the road in the "That's Not Love Tour."

Barnett is a former NFL player turned author, speaker, and actor. Simmons was a big-time radio and TV personality here in Houston for years. Both left their careers to minister to kids.

"Hurt people hurt people and so what I am trying to do with this message and with this tour is redirect these children's mind, reframe it and give a different perspective on how to work outside of this so they can get through it," Barnett explained.

A few months ago, the pair put their heads together and came up with the tour. It means what it says.

They do exercises and workshops teaching young people about the "L" word.

"Love is caring, it's kind, it's patient," Simmons said with a smile.

Statistics show teens are exposed to the opposite. According to the Justice Department and the CDC, 25 percent of high school girls in the U.S. have been abused physically or sexually.

"There's cases where dudes are open-handed, open-handed hitting girls at school," Barnett said.

Christina Navarro, mental health specialist for Communities in Schools, has seen it all.

"We see some cyber-bullying, mostly a lot of anxiety, which leads to depression," Navarro said.

Bullying is a huge problem many students have endured.

"Because I'm skinny -- I'm not like everyone else," Brisa de Lafuente, a student at Kashmere High School, tearfully explained.

The tour is already making a difference. The students get it.

"I really picked up a lot of things like how to love yourself, the signs of abusive relationship, the signs of how to communicate," Kashmere student Ashlee Alix said.

If Simmons and Barnett come across as relatable, that's because they are.

Barnett was abused by his step-father growing up and battled depression. Simmons endured an abusive relationship that also led to depression and suicidal thoughts. They both overcame their circumstances and won't stop until they show as many teens as they can how to do the same.

"We're helping them to see these red flags before it even gets to the physical part so they can see -- you know what, you can get out of these relationship now, it's not too late, you do deserve better," Simmons said.

It's a potentially life-saving message these two will take to more high schools, and maybe even churches and middle schools one day.

"Love is not bondage, it's freedom," Barnett said.

For more information about the That's Not Love Tour, or to request it your school or organization, visit www.thatsnotlovetour.com.
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