Mazomanie homicides shine light on teen dating violence

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Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 --- 9:37 p.m.

The double shooting in Mazomanie Monday night shines a light on how dangerous young relationships can be.

National statistics show one in three teens is affected by dating violence.

In Baraboo, leaders at Hope House work to educate teens and parents about the realities of "young love." Community Education Coordinator Jess Kaehny said Monday's shooting raises awareness about dating violence.

"I think it's just sort of a wake up call of how things can progress... things can sometimes escalate really quickly and turn violence even for teenage relationships," she said.

In an effort to prevent dating violence from escalating, Kaehny goes into middle schools and high schools weekly to talk with students.

"When you give them the opportunity and you create that safe space, a lot of teens start opening up about things they've been through or things they've noticed in a friend that they're really concerned about," Kaehny said.

Teen relationships can be complicated by the partners having to see each other every day in school. This can make it harder if one person is trying to end the relationship, Kaehny said.

Teens' frequent use of their phones and social media can also worsen issues like jealousy and control. Kaehny suggests parents pay attention if their teen is receiving constant texts or calls from their partner, asking where they are or who they're with.

She says it's most important for parents to let their kids know they can talk about issues like abuse.

"Being able to really convey that you want them to be able to come to you if there's a problem, letting them know that if they're ever getting hurt by a partner or a friend is, that you will be supportive and listen and believe them," she said.

It's also important for parents not to push teens into something they aren't comfortable with, she said.

"If we try to force them to do things they're not ready to do, like breakup if they're not ready to breakup, sometimes that can make things worse," Kaehny said.

Hope House provides phone counseling for anyone in need of help. Callers can remain anonymous. Kaehny said if teens come into the center alone, staff will try to work with the teen on ways to inform parents about what's going on.

The 24/7 helpline is 1-800-584-6790. The website www.loveisrespect.org is also a useful place for parents and teens to find information and resources on dating violence.