Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unnecessary Death and Suffering

In Massachusetts 18-year old Lauren Ashley was allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita, also 18.  Bloody clothes were found hidden in the attic of his home.  He had allegedly slit his ex-girlfriend’s throat and strangled her with a bungee cord.  Investigators think that she was killed in his family’s garage and later dumped in a marsh called Water Row.  While this young girl’s life was cut short, a quoted source in the article from a Boston newspaper said something equally disturbing. 
In a recent study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health, they found that 55% of parents who participated in a national survey reported that they had talked with their kids about dating abuse.  Those who had not spoken to their kids reported that their child hadn’t started dating yet or even scarier to me, is that they would learn through experience. 
What does that mean?  Do these parents think that when their children start dating, they will learn about what dating violence is because it happens to them? I hope not.  I think it is probably more along the lines of parents just don’t think that it will happen to their children or they will learn about dating violence at school or somewhere else.  As a Teen Dating Violence Advocate, I find this mindset reprehensible.  As parents, from the moment of conception, they are responsible for every aspect of their child’s upbringing, from housing, food, and love, to education, just to name a few.  This “head in-the-sand” mentality is not only ignorant but scary, even deadly.  I just don’t understand why parents would be fearful of having this type of discussion with their child.  Certainly, it might be uncomfortable but isn’t an ER visit, therapy after abuse, or a funeral worse?
Kids are taught that drugs are wrong and they should just say, no from elementary school on.  Kids are taught that drinking and driving is wrong and not to do it long before they get their licenses.  Why isn’t the standard to teach kids about healthy relationships and dating violence long before they are dating?  After all, it is an investment into their future and their education and success in life.  Most new parents start thinking about saving for college when their babies are still in diapers, 18 years before they will need to have the money ready.  Why are parents of tweens or teens saying that they don’t have to think about dating violence because their kids aren’t dating yet, but will be in 3-5 years?
Every time I speak at a junior high or high school I am always met by teens that say they are in or just got out of a dating violence relationship.  If they aren’t telling me that, then they are telling me that they have a friend that is going through it and they just don’t know what to do.  Scarier still, are the teachers and teens that say they wish they would have heard this message in 6th or 7th grade not their junior or senior year in high school!
How many more teens are going to have to die unnecessary deaths before Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationship discussions are common practice around the dinner table long before teens are dating?  If you are a parent or guardian and are concerned about Teen Dating Violence and want to know what your options are please call the National Dating Violence Hotline for tips on talking about it at 1-877-785-2020.        

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