05/11/07 — It’s not love: Tolerating abuse has tragic consequences

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It’s not love: Tolerating abuse has tragic consequences

Thursday afternoon, a Bunn high school student lost her life outside her home. The accused killer is her estranged boyfriend.

The 17-year-old was shot as she made her way to her house after school.

If you are a citizen of a city, that sort of a story makes you wonder what the world is coming to. If you are a parent or grandparent, it makes you worry about the safety of your child — and what it will take to protect him or her.

And if you are a woman, it makes you want to send a message to other young girls and the police agencies that are supposed to protect them.

There probably aren’t more shootings like this — love interests who become stalkers and predators at very young ages.

It might just be that we hear about them more these days.

But when we do, it is time to talk to all our young women about their self-images, their futures and how to distinguish a healthy relationship from an abusive one.

And it is time to remind law enforcement officers that cases like this involve women and men of all ages.

This young woman had a restraining order against her abuser. And just as with most cases like this, a restraining order is only as good as a law enforcement officer’s ability to enforce it. They cannot watch a potentially dangerous boyfriend or husband 24 hours a day — and that is why some of these cases end in tragedy.

But there are ways women can protect themselves. A young woman should know that any man who seeks to control her every move, who belittles her or who threatens or abuses her emotionally or physically is not worth her time.

It isn’t easy, but she needs to find the courage to break away, to get the help she needs to stay safe.

She has to believe in not only her own personal worthiness, but that she can recover from any heartbreak and come back stronger and ready for a new life and a new love.

And, most importantly, she needs to know that she is not alone. That there are places she can go and people to whom she can turn for help.

Families need to take a stand, too. Stand firm if you see the warning signs of an obsessive relationship. Report your suspicions if you think it is necessary. Support your daughter as she finds herself and becomes a woman — and make sure she knows that she is strong, vibrant and capable of becoming anything she wants to be.

Young women with healthy self-images have a better chance of avoiding this sort of relationship.

No one will ever know if this week’s tragedy could have been prevented, but if this young woman’s death makes even one emotional or physical abuse victim stand up and fight back, then she will not have died in vain.

Published in Editorials on May 11, 2007 11:18 AM