Teens afraid of dating violence | Editor's Note

By Sara Bruestle | Aug 31, 2016

As with the community forum on teen suicide in July, it was very clear to me what should be my focus in a column on the recent forum on grief and loss after a tragedy.

The Compass Health event held Aug. 11 at Rosehill Community Center featured panelists who shared how to support each other in the aftermath of the Mukilteo shooting.

While the story I wrote about the forum for this week’s paper focuses on three of the experts on the panel – Jessica Vann-Campbell, Pat Morris and Michelle Pauley – I wanted to focus on Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County here.

Two more of the panelists – Vicci Hilty and Karen McKeen of DVS – shared the warning signs and effects of dating violence.

“We’ve been deeply saddened, as all of you,” said Hilty, executive director of DVS. “It’s been very difficult. When your community feels heartbreak, our hearts break, too.”

Allen Christopher Ivanov has been accused of shooting to death three Kamiak High School grads, including his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, at a Mukilteo house party last month.

Ivanov, also a Kamiak grad, among other charges, was charged with the aggravated murder of Bui in the first degree. That count also carries a firearm and domestic violence allegation.

Though no one had called Volunteers of America or Compass Health after the shooting by Aug. 11, they had called Domestic Violence Services: Teens and their parents are afraid of dating violence.

“We’ve had a couple of young folks who told us they were afraid now to have a relationship at all and, if they did, they were petrified on how to end that relationship,” Hilty said.

“What we want you to know is that, ultimately, the greatest gift we have as human beings is the ability to love. To love ourselves and to love others. We cannot and we will not allow fear to stop us from those feelings of love.”

Like the Snohomish County prosecutors, Hilty and McKeen said that Bui’s murder was domestic violence.

Ivanov had broken up with Bui two months before the shooting, but then decided he wanted her back. He was jealous and angry that she was already dating. They had dated for about a year and a half.

In an interview with police, Ivanov admitted that he drove to the house party with an AR-15 rifle and two magazines in his trunk to kill Bui and others. He told them, “Everything that went on tonight was about a girl.”

The following are warning signs of dating violence: if your boyfriend or girlfriend is excessively jealous, checks in with you constantly or makes you check in with him/her; pushes for a quick committed relationship; has an explosive temper; pressures you about sex; isolates you from friends and family, and talks badly of those who are important to you; blames you when he/she mistreats you and tells you that you provoked him/her; does not accept responsibility for his/her actions; has a history of bad relationships and blames them on previous partners; you fear or worry about how he/she will react to what you say or do; and won’t let you break up with him/her.

“Dating violence is all about a pattern of behavior that one person uses to have power and control over another,” said McKeen, services deputy director of DVS. “It takes a lot of forms, but it’s all about power and control in the end.”

The possible effects of dating violence include: loss of appetite, headaches, nervousness, weight loss, mistrust of self, fear, depression, bruises, broken bones, sadness, self-blame, mistrust of others, feelings of worthlessness, shame, confusion, anxiety, guilt, suicide, permanent injury or death.

“If I can share one thing, it’s that if it feels wrong, if it looks wrong, if it sounds wrong, follow your gut and encourage your kids to do the same thing,” McKeen said. “If it doesn’t seem healthy, it’s probably not.”

In addition to offering services to victims of domestic violence, DVS also works to raise awareness and prevention of abuse in teen relationships.

Staff visit high schools and middle schools throughout the county, including Kamiak and Mariner high schools, to teach them about healthy relationships so that they are less likely to get involved in an abusive one.

The overall goal is to get teens talking openly about relationships – gender stereotypes, what is healthy, what they want out of a relationship, what isn’t healthy, and what they don’t want.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, call the DVS hotline at 425-25-ABUSE to report it.

Go to www.dvs-snoco.org for more information about dating violence and prevention.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." – George Bernard Shaw

EMAIL OF THE WEEK: From reader Dave Speights: “Beleaguered journalists and ball coaches can always take solace in Rudyard Kipling's litmus test of maturity: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.’”

CALL OF THE WEEK: From Myron Travis, crime prevention and public information officer for the Mukilteo Police Department: “That was an awesome article on the chaplains [‘Chaplains support Mukilteo in times of tragedy,’ front page, Aug. 24]. Thank you for writing about them. You did a great job.”

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