By Alan Gionet
DENVER (CBS4)– It’s a disturbing trend: domestic violence abuse among teenagers. Now, some are hoping to stop the trend by talking about it.
“There is more than I was aware of, as soon as I started talking to people.” said Sara Bale.
A talented rodeo rider like her friend Ashley Doolittle, Sara was talking about domestic violence, threats and intimidation. She too had a relationship that turned ugly and dangerous. Now Sara, still suffering the loss of her good friend, has shared her story too.
“You get into a relationship, you know, this guy’s great, you know he treated me so well at the beginning of it.”
But that’s not how it ended. It ended with that boyfriend pulling a gun and threatening to end his own life in front of her. She had already been through an emotional ringer of demands and threats.
“The isolation is what happens when they start to inquire who you’re with, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. It’s almost exhausting.”
Sara’s story is unfortunately, not unique. The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence says girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 are nearly three times as likely as the national average to be the victims of violence by their partners.
Silence about the problem only makes it worse said Katie Bergstrom, a violence prevention educator at the Phoenix Center on the Auraria campus.
“I think the thing that increases the likelihood of perpetrators, is a culture that allows it to happen by not talking about it. By not addressing power and control.”
Some of the same factors that have long led to domestic violence have not changed. What is different is a tool: social media.
“The more we try and connect and try and develop relationships with each other on a digital platform,” said Bergstrom, “the more that also means that perpetrators might decide to use that platform as a means of power and control.”
Sare Bale described some of the problem.
“We always have our phones on us. So it could be through social media or even on Snapchat now it can definitely see your friend’s location, wherever they’re at, whomever they’re with.”
There are ways of turning off sharing location information, but even that action has the potential of setting off abusers.
“And then you risk the response of, ‘Why did you turn it off? Who are you with, what are you actually doing?” said Sara.
Bergstrom said she too had problems.
“There were instances in which my perpetrator used other friends that I was friends with on Facebook in order to find out where I was.”
She stresses that the same boundaries in a personal relationship should exist on line.
“You’re not the person in the wrong for upsetting them. They’re upset because you have denied them that aspect of power and control, let them get upset,” she explained. “I mean I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Well, just turn stuff off. Just block them,’ and that’ll take care of the problem, because that’s not necessarily true.”
There are still other issues to address.
Realizing there is help is one big step said Sara, “There is hope, you can get help. You’re stronger than you think you are.”
The National Helpline for Domestic Violence is available 24 hours a day: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://ccadv.org/