Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Suspended Teens Mandated to Write About Kitty Genovese

Twenty-nine Lynn English High School students have been suspended and more could face disciplinary action as the city investigates a violent fight between two girls that was videotaped by cheering onlookers.

Officials say the girls who were involved in the fight were suspended for five days and will also face assault charges.

The student who shot the video was suspended for three days and all those watching will miss one day of school.

According to the Boston Globe, all 29 students will be required to write a research paper on the 1964 murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese.

Genovese was killed in New York City in 1964 as her cries for help went ignored.

For those who don't know about Kitty Genovese, a landmark case which coined the phrase, "The Bystander Effect," she was followed home from work, stalked, raped and beaten to death as several neighbors watched, heard and did nothing to save her. An extreme case, but one that continues to astound us, even today.

The 29 teens from Lynn English High School took the Bystander Effect to a new level.  Not only watching the fight between the two girls, but cheering it on and putting it on video. What precipitates this level of violence and the need to share it on video?

Perhaps they planned to make it viral much like the gross, but popular, videos made beating up homeless men.  What is wrong with our culture that we aren't so appalled by this behavior that we do something to stop it? I'm not so sure suspension and a research paper are going to have the effect on these teens that parents and teachers are hoping for.

When we define violence as entertainment we are sinking to a new low, accepting it and portraying it as an every day occurance to be watched and enjoyed with friends.  It's probable that many of these teens see violence in their own homes on a daily basis, so it's their "normal."  Parents who are involved in violent relationships are already setting the example from which their children learn to behave.

The mission to break the cycle of violence is one that is placed on our society as a whole, but if we don't teach our teens, and if they continue to experience violence at home, it will continue into our schools and eventually into our neighborhoods and communities. We are all responsible for positive change.

Many things have changed since 1964 and the murder of Kitty Genovese, including Neighborhood Watch Associations.  But one thing that hasn't changed much is the fear to get involved and do the right thing, it's called social responsibility.  In our age of technology it's easy to make a call, take a picture for evidence, and assist someone in trouble.

It's too bad that the Lynn English High School students reacted so differently.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teen Violence: School Shooting in Chardon, Ohio

The news is breaking on Monday, February 27, 2012 with yet another headline story about a student shooting at the 1,100-student Chardon High School about 30 miles east of Cleveland. According to the latest updates one student gunman has been taken into custody and weapons have been recovered. The suspect was located by following his tracks in the snow. A parent says that the shooting occurred while students were eating breakfast in the cafeteria, relating, A boy "stood up and started shooting, and then it was chaos," parent Jeannette Roth said. A teacher saw the shooting occur and chased the suspect, who still escaped.

It's reported that one student was killed and four others injured, but the extent of the injuries isn't known at the time of this post. The fear in the hearts of parents, teachers and other students is unimaginable.

Violence among teens can be sourced to many areas, one in particular is bullying.  Not to use as an excuse for lethal behavior, but as a reason for the tragedies occurring among our teens, often the ultimate act of violence, murder, as seen in Chardon and other schools across the country in the past.

Statistics show that 23% of students in grades 4-6 had been bullied several times or more and 20% had bullied others. Bullying is closely linked to drug and alcohol use – both by the child who is bullied and the child who bullies. It is not a right of passage. It is not something that kids "just do." It is peer abuse and needs to be effectively addressed.

According to research there are specific signs and red flags to watch for if being exhibited by certain students. It's imperative for parents and teachers to be aware of them and know how to handle each individual properly. There are also warning signs exhibited by those who are the bullies and the bully's friends or bystanders, also characteristics to be recognized to allow for prevention of incidents and intervention with these specific individuals.  Students Who Are Bullied/Students Who Bully Others

Bullying takes on many forms and is used against a wide range of young people who are seen as "different" or "not as good as" other classmates for friends, or someone who just doesn't fit in with a group or individual who is bent on making their lives miserable.  The impact of bullying, not only in teen social circles, but within the schools and other organizations, causing an environment of fear and disrespect, often leads to tragic incidents like school shootings and teen suicide.

As today goes on and more information comes out about the shooter, it's past time to take this issue seriously in every school and family across America. Teaching and making children aware about violence and what is not appropriate behavior should start very young. Teen dating violence needs to be understood completely before a teen goes on a first date. Most importantly, educating on how to build healthy relationships is a collaboration of many. 

Experts, parents, teachers and anyone in a child leadership position should be the ones that a child can turn to for answers, protection and advice. Learn about it. Know it. Don't let these tragedies continue.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is Chris Brown Melting Down?

Once again, the bad boy who beat up Rihanna, Chris Brown, is making the headlines and it's possible that there may be an arrest   If that happens, he could get jail time on a probation violation.  Yes, he is still on probation until 2014 for the assault on Rihanna. There is a timeline of events over past weeks that show Brown is clearly acting out in a public way, and who knows what's going on behind closed doors.

According to reports from TMZ , E!Online, and other sources, Chris Brown snatched a cell phone from a fan in Miami as she was snapping a picture of him inside his car. Brown then grabbed the phone from her and said, "Bitch, you ain't going to put that on no website," rolled up the window and left with her $500 iPhone.  The fan filed a police report which is being reviewed by the Miami-Dade States Attorney and there could be a warrant waiting for Chris soon.

This latest scrape comes on the heels of his Grammy performances, where he was seemingly "forgiven" by some of his peers and fans, and acting like the incident with Rihanna was just a "thing." Then came the Twitter tirade! It's a good thing Brown's early release from probation was denied, because it's clear that he's headed down the slippery slope where many abusers make big mistakes. His hostility towards a fan will be blamed on other things like stress, celebrity deprivation of privacy, or any number of excuses, but in the end  there are no more excuses for his bad behavior.

I wrote in an earlier article at Here Women Talk about the rumors surrounding Chris Brown and Rihanna getting back together and the dangerous ramifications to our teens. We know that abused women and girls often return to the abuser several times, sometimes putting themselves in lethal danger. To do this while the public is watching sends extremely bad messages, and, yes, it comes with the territory of celebrity, just like the big black Bentley Brown drives. Chris Brown and Rihanna are role models to millions of teens and tweens all over the world, they could have made several responsible decisions after the incident, but neither seems to have done that.

In that earlier article I stated:

Fast forward to present day. Rihanna and Chris Brown are getting back together, the headlines read. What does that say to our teens, that the victim is going back to her abuser? If Rihanna and Chris Brown aren’t going to address it then who is? It is up to parents and advocates to talk to teens and tweens. IF you don’t agree with the actions of celebrities then teach your teens and tweens. Talk to them about unacceptable behaviors because obviously Rihanna, Eminem, Chris Brown, and the companies aren’t talking! 

I stand by this 100% especially in light of Chris Brown's subsequent actions in the public arena. Parents need to prepare their teens now for the meltdown of Chris Brown; it will probably get worse. 

By the way, don't forget this face!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Giving the Gift of Compassion to Your Teen

Bruises. Emotional scars. Depression. Self-loathing. Black eyes. Shame. Educating about Teen Dating Violence is a messy business. No matter what, no matter how early I catch a child, I still meet victims. They are either secondary victims of domestic violence in their household or they have already been a victim of teen dating violence. The youngest that I spoke with was 10. Her elementary school boyfriend shoved her for talking to her friends at recess instead of him.

I know that the key to ending domestic violence and teen dating violence is combining reaction with pro-action. We, as a society need to provide the means for victims to get safe, get help, and move on. We need to punish abusers with more than a slap on the wrist. We need to educate our teens and children so they know the signs of a potentially harmful relationship. Then they can make safer, stronger, better choices for their future relationships and avoid needing these services at all.

I find myself pondering what parents can do besides educating their children and trying to foster the best possible healthy relationship example at home. So what can we do? What could help? Especially during the holidays, the word that comes to mind for me is compassion. Compassion feeds the soul, saves the heart, and makes life easier for those whom it is given to.

When I was growing up, one of the “requirements” for the holidays was to give to something, someone, somehow. That didn’t mean a friend, family, or spouse. It meant to a shelter, charity, bell ringer, Toys for Tots, or someone else in need. The giving was either in the form of time or money. As a high school student, I enjoyed working with the Festival of Trees and yearly food drives. As I have gotten older, domestic violence shelters, cancer research, and literacy have also become a priority in my gift giving. This “requirement” has become so much more rewarding and something that I look forward to doing every year. It is no longer a requirement but a pleasure and I am grateful to my parents for teaching me this valuable lesson in caring.

Parents can foster compassion in their children in many ways. One of the most vivid for me was being reminded that I was lucky and shouldn’t take for granted, my home, family, or the fact that I had food on the table. What better way to teach compassion than to teach teens and children to give of themselves to others less fortunate. Buying a gift for Toys for Tots was just as important as giving a gift to my grandparents or parents. It is easy, in this day and age to be focused on the latest and greatest technology, music, fashion or fulfilling any other self-want. This is when it becomes even more important to slow down and be grateful for what you already have. Someone will always be in a more difficult situation than you.

Maybe everyone can start a new tradition this year or next. When the holidays come around, find a giving tree, buy a gift for Toys for Tots, or donate your time to a local charity or shelter. Make the gift of compassion and charity just as important as your list of gifts to give to family and friends. You don’t have to save the entire world all at once. But, small steps and efforts can lead to miles of change.

This may not be the single most effective way to end domestic violence or teen dating violence, but I do believe that it factors into being a well-rounded, decent human being. Give to give not just to receive. Give to those less fortunate; give even if it hurts a little. I don’t advocate bankrupting yourself but if you can spare twenty dollars for the bell ringer or charity of your choice, do it. A little self-sacrifice for those in need goes a lot further than 3 lattes for you. It will pay in karma and soul.

Please be sure to check out my featured column on Here Women Talk Ezine:

“It’s About Your Teen”

I am happy to answer questions from teens or adults.

Feel free to submit a question; email to: susie@susiekroll.com and put “HWT Question” in the subject line. You may remain anonymous.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Q&A: Will He Really Hurt My Family?

Melissa asks: "The guy I'm seeing keeps saying awful things about my parents and my brother, he sometimes tells me that he will hurt my brother if he doesn't stop trying to break us up.  My brother doesn't like my boyfriend at all. Do you think he would really hurt him, or is he just talking?"

When it comes to Dating Violence and Domestic Violence the abuser has one key tool to maintain his or her power and control over the victim. That tool is isolation. An abuser seeks to control the victim’s life, decisions, friends, work, and school by telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Making threats is a common way for an abuser to gain and maintain power and control over the victim. When the victim does something that the abuser sees as opposing his or her control, they act out in anger. The victim then experiences either or all of the following types of abuse: verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Over time the victim learns what to do and what not to do in order to not make their abuser angry. Isolation of the victim is the best way to break down the victim and make them feel shamed and alone. The abuser seeks to keep the victim from anyone that loves or can help support the victim. One of the common treats made by abusers is the possibility of harm to the victim’s friends or family. Of course, since the victim loves their friends and family they usually stop seeing them in order to protect them and themselves from their abuser.

If your partner is threatening your family or friends there are a few things to consider. Is the abuser telling you that he or she will hurt your friends or family or are the threats being made to the friends or family members directly? Are they or you in immediate danger? If so, please call the police. In Dating Violence/Domestic Violence situations, the threats to friends and family are usually made to the victim only, as the abuser doesn’t seek to control the friends or family, just the victim. If you are scared for your friends or family, tell them what is going on. Tell them about the threats and have them help you. Do not let the abuser isolate you from your family or friends. If you need help with how to make a safety plan for getting out of the relationship you can always call the National Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474. They will be able to give you direct assistance and get more information about your situation and tailor a plan to your specific needs. By getting yourself more information and getting help you can be better educated and decide how to handle threats made by your partner. Get all the information that you can and make the best decision you can for yourself and your situation.

Please be sure to check out my featured column on Here Women Talk Ezine:

“It’s About Your Teen”

I am happy to answer questions from teens or adults.

Feel free to submit a question; email to: susie@susiekroll.com and put “HWT Question” in the subject line. You may remain anonymous.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Didn't Have a Choice!

“Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)

As a professional speaker and advocate for Teen Dating Violence, I spend a lot of time in junior high and high schools. Teen Dating Violence is a weighty subject especially for teens and parents. It can be made even more volatile when parents aren’t the model of a healthy relationship that their children need to see. When I go out to speak to teens and tweens I invariably meet kids who are stunned at one or more aspects of healthy relationships. They seem mystified that it is a partnership. Or that each person is free to have a life outside of their relationship. More shockingly, is the fact that most aren’t surprised and have even experienced one or more aspects of a potentially harmful dating violence relationship; they even seem to be okay or resigned to these behaviors. Some of these behaviors include being accountable at all times to their boyfriends or girlfriends or becoming sexually active. I hear kids say, frequently, “I didn’t have a choice.” This resignation to their situation also leads them to say, “I’m not happy, but what can I do,” and “Isn’t this how it is supposed to be?”

Today’s teens and tweens are constantly in pursuit of the next best thing that they think will make them happy, albeit I am not sure if they know what their happiness is. But then again, do most adults? Though I do know that at that age most seem to choose their happiness based on what their peers want or have mandated as the thing to have. Sadly, it also seems that the happiness teens are seeking is and can only be in the form of a material object.

As an advocate, I seek to have them learn about their own rights, choices, and individuality. As an adult, I now see clearly, what pressures teens and I were under and how differently I would do things if I knew then what I know now. Therein lays the eternal struggle; the inexperience of youth and the wisdom of age. I want every child to learn about healthy relationships. More importantly, I want each and every child to learn healthy independence and individuality. I believe that one cannot be a successful and happy partner unless they are first a successful and happy individual. A teen’s self worth is not defined by the material goods they have, the popularity they seek, or the romantic relationship they are a part of. It comes from learning about one’s self, experiences, beliefs, and values. It comes from what has made us sad, happy, angry, jealous, and joyous. Ultimately, happiness comes from having the ability to choose. A few of those choices could be choosing your job, religion, education, hobbies, hair color, friends, and activities. We need to teach them about the responsibility that comes with choice, the consequences and positive outcomes. It will transition nicely into making healthy choices in all avenues of their lives.

Anyone that is a parent or advocate for children can help foster healthy relationships by first fostering healthy individuals. We can remind our teens and tweens that happiness is something you have to actively seek. That it is more than the newest gadget, fashion, or phone. Happiness is also taking the time to value what you have already. We need to show teens and tweens that they have choices, opinions, and goals that have merit and value. We need to show them that while on the path to seeking their happiness they must also remember that some of the joy in attaining happiness is also in the journey.

Please be sure to check out my featured column on Here Women Talk Ezine:

“It’s About Your Teen”

I am happy to answer questions from teens or adults.

Feel free to submit a question; email to: susie@susiekroll.com and put “HWT Question” in the subject line. You may remain anonymous.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The REAL Domestic Violence on Bravo TV: Housewives of Beverly Hills

I would like to take a moment to talk about the ongoing “plot line” of the RHOBH. In this particular franchise, Taylor is being abused by her now late husband, Russell. She apparently has told other members of the cast that there is abuse taking place. On one episode, the women confront Taylor-unexpectedly, at a tea party at one of the other cast members, Lisa’s home.

It became clear that at one time or another, each of the other cast members have heard from Taylor, herself speaking about the domestic violence that she is experiencing. The violence ranged from insults to broken jaws and reports of being hit by Russell. There are two things that I would like to point out regarding this episode.

First, victims have a hard time reaching out. Sometimes all they can do to get by, especially if kids are involved is to talk to someone with an empathic ear. Taylor does have a five year old daughter, Kennedy. Taylor was not ready to leave, find her voice, or change her situation. While she was seeking therapy, unless you are in the shoes of a victim, you cannot begin to understand that mental and physical toll that Domestic Violence takes on the victim. But you can listen and you can believe-no matter what. More on that in a second.

Second, from the other cast members’ point of view, they hear about the abuse and because they care about their friend, want her to leave Russell and get help. (Russell committed suicide by hanging himself prior to this season airing) They also, after hearing such horrible stories about Taylor’s abuse cannot understand that she looks fine and happy and in love when she is with Russell. I can sympathize with their frustration but they are missing a key piece of information. Abusers are very talented at making the good times great and the bad times so so horrible. Taylor loved Russell and wanted to save her marriage for hers and Kennedy’s sake. There is always that hope, in a victim’s mind that the situation will get better if they just try hard enough. The other cast mates didn’t know this. Instead, based upon their justified frustration, they wonder if what Taylor is saying is true when she vacillates from happy to sad, daily. They confront Taylor and then she feels attacked by what she thought was her only support system. Her cast mates care about her but they approached the situation in a less that helpful way.

I do think that it was right for one of the cast mates to confront the issue, just not how it was done because Taylor was right, that puts her and her daughter in jeopardy. I believe whole-heartedly that light needs to be shed on Domestic Violence. Its success as a life-destroyer depends on the darkness, secrets, and shame.

So what do I think?

Bravo TV is obligated to send the entire cast mates of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and all the other Housewives from other states) to a Domestic Violence Training Workshop. They need to learn to recognize the signs of Domestic Violence, understand the dynamic of an abusive relationship, and know what they can do to help a victim while keeping themselves healthy and without further endangering the victim. If Bravo TV is going to publicize and record this type of serious issue to the world, then they are obligated to educate their cast and their viewers. This situation was handled so poorly on that episode. It would have and could have been so powerful and positive with a little more education and a little less sensationalism.

Please be sure to check out my featured column on Here Women Talk Ezine:

“It’s About Your Teen”

I am happy to answer questions from teens or adults.

Feel free to submit a question; email to: susie@susiekroll.com and put “HWT Question” in the subject line. You may remain anonymous.

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