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High school club focuses on abusive teen relationships

Duke Gosney, 17, left, president of Central HIgh School's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club, and Vanessa Tracy, 16, vice president, speak to their peers Friday about teen dating and violence in relationships during an assembly. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Kim Walter

WOODSTOCK - As part of the Stop the Violence campaign, officers of Central High School's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club gave a presentation Friday afternoon to raise awareness about violence in teen relationships.

According to the presentation, one in 10 females in the United States is purposefully physically hurt by their partner, and 1.5 million high school students are subjected to emotional abuse at some point in a relationship. Only 33 percent of those in abusive relationships actually tell someone.

The campaign came to the school this year through the FCCLA, and Duke Gosney, 17, club president, said the presentation was just one way to get awareness out.

"The message is for guys and girls, because men are the usual abuser, and women, the usual victims," he said. "The victims need to know that just because they think emotional or physical abuse is normal, it's not ... they need to speak up and know that there's help right here in this community."

Students showed a video produced by the school's theater arts class. In it, a girl surrounded by friends can be seen crying in a hallway. She looks up to reveal a bruise on her cheek, and attempts to cover it up with makeup.

The girl is shown with her boyfriend, who yells and shoves her, but then says 'I love you' and gives her a hug before walking away, only to leave her crying more. Her friends are obviously confused when they see the girl walking with the boy, knowing what abuse is going on in the relationship.

The video also revealed some startling statistics about physical and emotional abuse in teen relationships. The FCCLA worked with Response, Inc. - an organization devoted to helping victims of sexual and domestic violence -- in Woodstock to gather the figures.

In the video, students offered tips relating to dating abuse cues and how to seek help. They said an abuser might be someone who is constantly angry, possessive or says demeaning things to their partner, even in front of others.

The students said that victims of an abusive relationship might find themselves crying a lot, or constantly worrying about how they can make their partner happy, and what the consequences could be if they don't.

The video ended with all the students repeating, "Stop the violence."

Gosney said females usually dominate the club at Central, and said he hopes that by speaking up for the victims of abuse as a male, he can get other guys to take the message seriously.

"I think abusive relationships happen here, they just go unnoticed," he said. "I'll be happy if our presentation even reached one person who is a victim, and helped them realize that there are things they can do to get out of the relationship."

Vanessa Tracy, 16, club vice president, said the statistics were surprising, and that she was concerned that so few victims speak up about their situation.

"I guess they could be afraid of what their partner will do, but also what other people will think," she said. "But there's probably a good number of girls who think guys telling them they're stupid or ugly is OK ... but we shouldn't settle for that."

After the presentation, students were given a short survey to fill out about abusive relationships. Some of the questions were on the statistics and tips provided, but others simply asked if a student knew of someone in an abusive relationship, or if they had been in one themselves.

The FCCLA plans to go through the surveys and report the results to the national chapter.

Alissandra Rodriguez, 16, a club officer, said she's curious to see the results, and wonders if they will fall in line with national trends.

"I'm sure other students watched the video and thought, 'That doesn't happen here,' and we'd all like to think that's the case," she said. "But I think you'll find abusive relationships in any high school. I just hope we raised some awareness and can help stop the violence before it goes beyond high school and gets out of control."

Raelyn Hamilton, the FCCLA adviser, said she plans to enter the video in a national contest. The prize is $1,000 that could go toward more community service and outreach efforts.

"This club is all about leadership, it's not just sewing and cooking anymore," she said. "I'm really proud of all the work that students put into this, and I hope their classmates take it seriously. These kids have too much going for them to be distracted by an unhealthy relationship."

Response, Inc.'s crisis hotline is 540-459-5799. Students were encouraged to call the organization, or talk to a parent or teacher if abuse of any kind is ongoing in a relationship.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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