By Kelly Davis
Last month, the body of Karlie Hall, an 18-year-old student at Millersville University, was found in her dorm room. Her boyfriend, Gregorio Orrostieta, is facing homicide and aggravated assault charges.
Karlie's case has shocked the Millersville community, forcing it and people throughout Pennsylvania to think about intimate-partner violence, particularly among young people.
In our daily work with domestic-violence survivors, Lutheran Settlement House experiences the pain and suffering of countless individuals facing domestic violence, from teens like Karlie to women, kids, and men. My heart aches with each story.
Two domestic-violence counselors from LSH recently visited Millersville to educate students and staff about preventing dating violence and teaching the hard-to-talk-about facts.
Teen dating violence is a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior used by one partner to gain power over the other. Such behavior includes physical, sexual, emotional, and/or psychological abuse. Tragically, research shows that too many of our young adults are in such relationships.
A 2014 study by the National Research Opinion Center at the University of Chicago has found that 20 percent of teens, both boys and girls, report being the victim of physical and sexual dating abuse. Meanwhile, Loveisnotabuse.org reports that nearly one in three college students say they have been abused by a partner. These statistics transcend demographic categories, including race, socioeconomic status, and geographical location. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate.
The digital era presents more opportunity for abuse: teen-dating violence often occurs over social-media sites, e-mail, and texts through humiliation, name-calling, shaming, and put-downs. And it's omnipresent: One in three teens say they are contacted via e-mail or text 10 to 30 times an hour by a partner keeping tabs on them.
LSH is attacking the problem with several initiatives, including our bilingual domestic-violence program and Students Talking About Relationships, an after-school program for Philadelphia high school students to discuss the realities of dating violence and focus on building healthy relationships.
We're also in local hospitals, working with patients and doctors. We have partnered with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Albert Einstein Medical Center, for example, to provide onsite domestic-abuse services for patients and their families, as well as training for health-care professionals.
We engage national figures in the discussion, too. Every spring, LSH hosts a Women of Courage event that honors clients who have overcome significant adversity, as well as others who share our core values and mission. This year, on April 24, our honoree is Philadelphia's own Tamron Hall, a national correspondent for NBC News and a vocal advocate against intimate-partner violence. Hall's sister was the victim of a murder that remains unsolved.
LSH is looking at the problems surrounding domestic violence holistically, addressing all that intersects with the issue. Our sincerest hope is that our continued work leads to the empowerment of individuals to seek positive and healthy relationships and to the ultimate eradication of horrible tragedies like the case of Karlie Hall.
If you or someone you know needs help, please don't hesitate to reach out to LSH at 215-426-8610 or to the local 24-hour domestic-violence hotline at 1-866-723-3014.