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We need to shatter the silence that surrounds dating and domestic violence

Friday, January 27, 2017

THE ISSUE

As LNP reported Thursday, the parents of Karlie Hall have filed a federal lawsuit against Millersville University, and others, claiming her 2015 death could have been prevented had more action been taken following previous incidents involving Hall and Gregorio Orrostieta, the boyfriend who killed her. The suit was filed Jan. 17 in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Acacia Fraternity and many of its members, accused of providing the underage Orrostieta and Hall with alcohol at a party the night of the killing, are also named in the suit. Hall was beaten and strangled by Orrostieta in her dorm room on Feb. 8, 2015. He was found guilty of third-degree murder in May 2016 and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.

This editorial is not going to argue the merits of the lawsuit being pressed by Karlie Hall’s parents.


We’re not privy to the details of what happened at Millersville before the terrible night their 18-year-old daughter was killed. We only can imagine their immense and constant pain.

But one comment in LNP’s story Thursday about the lawsuit was striking: “I think part of the motivation for Karlie’s parents to bring this suit is to bring the issues of domestic violence and dating violence to the forefront,” the Halls’ attorney Brian Kent said Wednesday afternoon.

What an incredibly sad task to have to carry out — to make people aware of the very thing that led to a beloved daughter’s death. And how necessary a task that is.

Because the reality is that we don’t — any of us — speak often enough about the dangers of dating and domestic violence. It remains a stigmatized subject, cloaked by misunderstanding.

Victims often are blamed for staying in abusive relationships, as if it’s oh so easy to escape from an abuser who’s fiercely determined to make sure that doesn’t happen, and who undermines the victim’s self-worth so methodically that the victim may be paralyzed by doubt.

Young people aren’t taught adequately about how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, or how to help someone who may be in one. They are taught from a young age to fear the stranger, but not the one who professes love and devotion.

So, as we did in the days after Karlie Hall’s horrific death, we’ll do our best to offer a brief primer here on some of the fundamentals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teen dating violence is “widespread,” and defines it “as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.”

There are red flags for abuse that our young people should be taught to look out for: explosive temper tantrums, possessive behavior, disparaging or berating a dating partner, or pressuring her to perform a sexual act.

It is not adorable when a boyfriend acts jealous — it should raise questions. It’s not healthy when he demands constant attention and pitches a fit when his girlfriend wants to spend time with friends and family — it’s concerning.

We are using female nouns and pronouns here because most victims are female, and most abusers are male, but men can be victimized and women can be abusive, and everyone should be mindful of that possibility.

Some abusive behavior may take place when a friend is present. A person who’s being abused needs allies, but a bystander shouldn’t put herself in peril. So that bystander should speak to a trusted adult.

If danger seems imminent, call 911. “If you’re not sure, just make the call,” Bonnie Glover, director of Domestic Violence Services, told LNP in 2015.

Otherwise, call the local, 24-hour domestic violence hotline or sexual assault hotline. Here, the sexual assault hotline is run by YWCA Lancaster.

YWCA Lancaster’s new website features a “quick escape” safety button for those who may be in abusive situations, and may need to speedily exit the site.

The website LoveIsRespect.org puts it succinctly: When you think someone is being abused, “don’t mind your own business.”

That website and other resources listed below are good places to start for ideas about how to talk to teenagers — even children — about dating and domestic violence.

Lest we think we need to shield children from such subjects, here’s something to consider: A 2011 CDC nationwide survey found that 23 percent of females and 14 percent of males “who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.”

That’s a terrible reality. And one we need to face.

Domestic violence hotline: 299-1249

The national domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Sexual assault hotline: 392-7273

YWCA Lancaster website: ywcalancaster.org

Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County: caplanc.org/DVS

Learn more about dating violence and sexual assault:

NoMore.org

 

See article on LancasterOnline