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Lindsay Ann Burke was murdered at the age of twenty-three...
She was a victim of dating violence.

At the time of her death she was trying to break the cycle of violence but tragically her former boyfriend, Gerardo E. Martinez, in a rage, violently took this young woman’s life. The life sentence he now serves pales in comparison to the taking of Lindsay’s.

Lindsay, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a teacher had her life cut short.

Since that time her family have mobilized people and gathered support to pass legislation to require Rhode Island schools to educate students about dating violence. Sadly, Lindsay Ann Burke is one example of many that teen dating violence kills.

Teen Dating Violence • Dating Violence • Teen Intimate Partner Violence - these are all terms that connote abuse in a social, romantic, or intimate teen relationship. Abuse is a pattern of behavior used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another, (It is important to note that referring to a “pattern” does not mean that a single instance of abuse is not also dating violence.) The term “dating” describes two people, regardless of sexual orientation, who are involved in a relationship, long term or otherwise.

Being trapped inside an abusive relationship at any age is degrading, humiliating, and extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem. When an adolescent is involved, all those emotions are underscored by their own lack of experience of being intimately involved with another person. They are further exasperated by the lack of legal protection due to their age.

One in three teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse

In many instances, girls and boys alike will remain silent for fear of retribution from their abuser and because they feel they will be judged by their peers and family.

The emerging reality is this: incidences of violence in relationships are escalating and lives have been - and will continue to be - lost if teens are not educated. Furthermore, cell phones, email, and social networking sites have provided convenient and prevalent ways for one person to stalk, bully, and ‘sext’ another, making it even more complex for someone who is being victimized to extricate themselves.

Clearly we cannot afford one more minute of public complacency.

In order to eradicate this pervasive syndrome, we need to dispel myths that surround domestic and dating violence -- myths that include blame ("It's her fault for not leaving him the first time he hit her.") and denial (“That would never happen to someone I love.”), or ones that reinforce what it means to be a “real man” or who is at greatest risk of abuse. Abuse does not discriminate; it crosses every socio-economic and cultural boundary.

One in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. It is clear that it can happen to anyone. All too often individuals focus on why a victim stays in a relationship, when in fact a clear cut way to understand is to shift the paradigm toward why an abuser abuses.

For teenagers, who are embarking on their first experiences with intimacy, a benchmark for what a healthy relationship looks like, coupled with what unhealthy behaviors look like, will best arm them with the tools necessary to develop successful relationships. A study commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and Family Violence Prevention Fund revealed :

Majority of teens who have been taught about teen dating violence and abuse say it helped them.

• Only 25% of the teens surveyed indicated they had taken a course on relationships and dating at school, but

• Fully three- fourths of those teens who had taken such a course at school (75%) said they learned about the signs of an abusive relationship and now felt confident that they would recognize abuse in a relationship

• 2 out of 3 (65%) found this class helpful in learning appropriate dating and relationship behavior. Additionally the study also showed that:

•Conversations on dating abuse are difficult and unproductive because both teens and their parents are extremely uncomfortable talking to each other about the most serious aspects of dating abuse*.

Given the results of the study one could also surmise that there is a need to develop training programs for teens to become peer-peer counselors and manage in-school advocacy groups to provide support and awareness.

Preventing Teen Dating Violence begins with awareness.

Signs of Teen Dating Violence include:

• Physical (bruising, garments that cover arms and legs, lack of eye contact)

• Skipping classes, falling grades

• Inability to make decisions

• Mood swings and changes

• Experimentation with drugs and alcohol

• Emotional outbursts

• Poor Self-Esteem

• Withdraws from family and friends

If you suspect that someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship it is vital to be familiar with steps that will ensure their safety.

The first 72 hours after a break up are the most dangerous for the victim.

Understanding the best course of action prior to that split, can save a life.

There are a multitude of resources available on-line and many communities have local organizations that can provide counseling and advocacy.

About Elin's book: 'Tornado Warning'

Follow Elin on Twitter: @ElinWaldal