Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Teen Dating Violence: Education Is Everything!

"How do you recognize when someone you are dating is an abuser before you are involved," asked 20-year-old CCSU student Gina Ratz of a panel of four teen dating violence experts during a Forum at the University of Hartford. (MARK MIRKO / HARTFORD COURANT / February 9, 2010

I was at a Teen Dating Violence Forum last night at the University of Hartford. What a crowd! What a good conversation! See the article from The Hartford Courant below. I’m back there in the audience to the right of the speaker.

It was so gratifying to see so many people there… the place was packed… getting good information from the speakers and asking good questions. Most gratifying to me was to hear the Richard Graziano, publisher of the Courant and Fox 61 TV News talk about his commitment to the issue of domestic violence. He spoke of Alice Morrin, his executive assistant, who was killed last June by her estranged husband, what a good person and a good mother she was. He said that the Courant and Fox 61 TV would continue to make reporting on this issue a priority. I talked with him after the program and expressed my gratitude for his attention to this issue and told him about my nineteen-year-old niece Maggie and how she was killed by her ex-boyfriend on a college campus in October of 1999.

For me, ten years after Maggie’s death in a dating violence incident, it is great to see all that is being done and yet, as we all know, there is so much more to do. I particularly like what Dr. Pollack said about how to help men and boys today in our society.
Let's keep up the good work on this issue.


Forum On Teen Dating Violence Focuses On Boys, Personal Stories

Story By GRACE E. MERRITT The Hartford Courant

Photo By MARK MIRKO The Hartford Courant

February 10, 2010

HARTFORD - Though the spotlight in relationships is usually on teenage girls, boys often are pressured to be in control and never show emotion, a "gender straitjacket" that can push boys toward dating violence, a panelist said during a forum on teen dating violence Tuesday at the University of Hartford.

When boys realize they are not in control in their lives, they may try to control others in relationships, a trend that hurts not only their partners but themselves, said William S. Pollack, author of "Real Boys."

Pollack and other panelists talked about alarming trends in teen dating violence and shared stories of their own teen relationships, such as mistaking constant texting to track their movements as romantic gestures and believing their partner's promises to change.

Iris Ruiz remembered falling in love with her boyfriend and never having a clue that she was trapped in a violent relationship.

"I was very much in love with him. Even though he was really violent, he told me he would change," said Ruiz, who is assistant director of Interval House, which provides services to victims of domestic violence.

It took a long time to realize that the boyfriend's changes were temporary and that she was the one who would have to change — and leave, she said.

"It's not until your intellect takes over your emotions that you can change," Ruiz said.

During the forum, sponsored by The Courant and Fox 61, the experts talked about how to recognize the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, such as extreme jealousy, threats, constant texting, unexplained bruises and fear of a partner.

They also warned that the most dangerous time in such a relationship is the effort to break up, and they urged women to develop a safety plan in advance and get advice from a dating violence source such

Some of the panelists lamented that, in a world of tabloid and reality TV shows, there aren't many healthy role models for teens. They said schools and parents should begin teaching students about healthy relationships at an early age.

Panelist Jhumka Gupta, of the Yale School of Public Health, an expert on violence against girls and boys, said studies show a connection between dating violence and unwanted pregnancy. In some cases, abusers try to sabotage birth control, such as flushing the pills down the toilet, to control their girlfriend's ability to protect herself against unwanted pregnancy.

The audience was packed with students, concerned parents, teachers and some victims who grimly connected with the painful stories being told.

Gina Ratz, 20, a student at Central Connecticut State University said she remembers being covered with bruises, having cash stolen from her and having a gallon of Bacardi rum thrown at her head during a relationship."

Once you end the relationship, you realize how long ago you should have known," Ratz said.

Panelists said parents should take notice if their children seem depressed or socially withdrawn, if they no longer hang out with the same friends or if their grades start to plummet. For boys, parents should look for negative macho talk, threatening behavior toward adults and irritability and negativity, which often are signs of depression, Pollack said.,0,6565298.story