A Phoenix mother who lost her daughter to domestic violence 13 years ago will be at Eastern Arizona College Thursday and Mt. Graham Safe House volunteers hope to pack the Lee Little Theater for her presentation.
Felicia Herbert, an outreach coordinator and victim advocate at the Safe House, said Bobbi Sudberry’s presentation will help people recognize the signs of teen dating violence. Sudberry’s 17-year-old daughter’s former boyfriend shot and killed her and himself in January 2008, prompting her to create the Kaity’s Way presentation, which she offers across the country.
Herbert said people in Graham and Greenlee counties may not realize teenage domestic violence exists locally, but she has personally seen middle schoolers come to the shelter with bruises inflicted by a romantic partner.
“I don’t think people realize it starts at such a young age,” she said. “They think it’s normal. It’s like nothing new. I think it’s very important for them to learn that these things aren’t normal.”
When Herbert visits local high schools and gives presentations on how to have healthy relationships, she sees clues that suggest dating violence is going on. Sometimes the way teens interact with each other, just from the car to the classroom show her that it’s going on in our community, she said. It has been a hidden problem because the community hasn’t felt comfortable enough to discuss it.
“I think the presentation would give (victims) hope that people are out there to help them,” she said. “If they see we’re out there for them there’s a chance they’ll speak out.”
Pima Police Chief Diane Cauthen said usually, the perpetrating partner has control over the victim, and wants to keep that control. The crime doesn’t get reported regularly, but she is certain that it is going on in the Gila Valley.
Sometimes young adults don’t realize the behavior isn’t acceptable and other times they don’t want to discuss the situation with authority figures.
“They’re going to mimic what they see,” she said. “Nobody has the right to harm another person, but if we don’t know about what’s going on, we can’t help them.”
If a parent thinks their child may be in an abusive relationship, Cauthen said they should talk about abuse to their child and how they can help.
Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred said it’s sad, but “I know it’s happening a lot more than we think or is reported.”
Unfortunately, he has seen teens he knows are in abusive relationships marry each other, creating an abusive relationship that would be even harder to leave, Allred said.
It’s not always the teenaged boy who is physically abusive, either, he said.
Like Cauthen said, if a child sees his parents degrade and physically or emotionally abuse one another, they will think it is a normal part of life, Allred said.
“Raise your family, raise your kids. Start conversations and lead by good examples,” He said.