Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Are Our Young Women Still Dying?

The death of Cindi Santana, 17, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Abraham Lopez, 18, after a lunchtime argument at Southeast High School has once again brought a spotlight on teen dating violence, but the question is, why do we always have to wait for a young woman to die before we get serious about talking about teen dating violence?

Relationship Violence is a fact of life for too many young girls today. According to statistics provided by Break the Cycle:

      One in three teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.

      40% of teenage girls, ages 14 to 17, know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by their partner.

      Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

      1 in 4 teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse.

Yet, despite these startling statistics, we continue to act like relationship violence belongs in a conversation about anybody else but our young women and men. Too many times it seems that when parents realize their child is in an unhealthy relationship, even if there is no physical violence involved, they just wait for the relationship to flame out, since it's "young love" and just hope that chapter is behind their child. But what about the emotional scars?

In this case, Cindi's family did everything right. They called the police and had him arrested after an earlier threat and altercation, they told the school principal that Cindi was in danger, they did everything they could to keep her safe. It's a bitter pill for us to swallow, but a reminder of the real danger relationship violence victims are in on a daily basis.

Then there are the abusers, both young men and women who clearly need help to deal with their rage. We cannot afford to ignore  the signs of their dangerous behaviours because it can lead them to hurt others or themselves.  Abraham Lopez had to have been troubled for a long time, somebody close to him had to see the signs. Why did none of his family and friends step in and try to get him help before he took Cindi's life? Now let's be clear, nobody is responsible for Abraham's crimes, but Abraham, but we must intervene when we see our loved ones going down a dark path. We must teach our youth that strength is not used for hurting and abuse is not love.

Education is the key in helping break the cycle of violence early, so is conversation. How can a person protect themselves from a potential abuser if they are not educated about what signs to look for? For far too long domestic violence and relationship violence has been a dirty little secret and victims have been unable to seek help because of fear, shame or even the sense of hopelessness. Cindi's death is a tragedy, but if we forget about her after the headlines fade and lose sight of all the other young women and men who are victims of relationship violence, then we will just keep repeating this devastating cycle of "shock and awe" as our daughter and sons continue to die at the hand of those who claim to love them.

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