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Anita Gomez from A Better Way domestic violence shelter leads a group of Granite Hills High School students in a case study and discussion of domestic violence and emotional abuse at the school.

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Teen dating violence on the rise

Awareness key to preventing dating violence

Dating abuse checklist:

• My partner teases me in ways that hurt my feelings.

• My partner calls me mean names like “stupid” or “fat” or “worthless.”

• My partner acts jealous of the time I spend with friends, family or people I’m in class with.

• My partner gets angry about the clothes I wear or how I style my hair or tries to control how I look.

• My partner checks up on me by calling, driving by my house or getting someone else to call/drive by my house.

• My partner always wants to know who I talk to on the phone or who I’ve texted.

• My partner says it’s my fault when they have a bad day or are in a bad mood.

• My partner throws or destroys things when angry.

• My partner hits walls, drives dangerously or does other things that scare me.

• My partner drinks excessively or uses drugs.

• My partner insists that I drink or use drugs whenever they do.

• My partner often accuses me of cheating or of being into other people.

• My partner doesn’t respect my privacy (he/she reads my email, goes through my personal things, demands access to my desk/locker, insists on seeing my text message history).

• My partner has threatened to hurt me.

• My partner has threatened to commit suicide if I leave.

• My partner has intentionally hit, kicked, slapped, punched or otherwise hurt me.

• My partner has given me visible bruises, welts or cuts.

• My partner forces me to go further sexually than I want to.

• My partner is mean to me in front of other people, but sweet, kind and apologetic when we’re alone.

• My friends have told me they worry about me because of my partner or think my partner is abusive.

If you think you are in a abusive relationship, talk to your parents, a teacher or another adult you can trust. You can also contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at (866) 331-9474 or online at


APPLE VALLEY • Maria had been dating James for about a year.

He accused her of being selfish because she wasn’t willing to have sex with him. When she wrote him a letter telling him how much she loves him, he gave it back to her after correcting her spelling and grammar mistakes in red pen.

“He’s making her feel stupid,” a girl told her classmates after reading the sample case.

Inviting lecturers from A Better Way domestic violence shelter in Victorville, students in the Peer Helper program at Granite Hills High School have been learning about teen dating violence. Anita Gomez, case manager at A Better Way, said she sees an increase in the number of teenagers contacting the nonprofit shelter.

“You can see physical abuse, but you can’t see emotional abuse,” Gomez said. “Our society kind of accepts it or makes light of it. Abusers are not being held accountable for their behavior. Many teens lack impulse control. They don’t know how to control their emotions.”

Teen dating violence comes in a variety of forms, including hitting, making threats and stalking.

About 7 percent of 11th graders in California reported being victims of dating violence, according to a 2005-06 survey by the state Department of Justice. But more than one in five teenagers that had been physically or sexually assaulted by a partner didn’t report the abuse, according to California Women’s Law Center Policy Brief.

Almost all students in the Peer Helper program said they’ve seen verbal abuse on campus, such as boys putting down girls by calling them derogatory names.

“In high school, everyone just wants to have sex,” a boy said during a discussion. “It’s what guys want pretty much in high school. If you are having sex with a bunch of girls, you are a guy.”

“It’s not just guys,” a girl added. “Girls are the same way, too. Some girls take advantage of some boys’ feelings and they’ll actually use it against them if they want to have sex. Some girls are dominant.”

“Hearing that from someone so special makes me feel like I’m not worth anything,” another girl said. “Sometimes I won’t even notice it, but it just happens.”

Many teens don’t report dating violence because they feel ashamed or don’t want adults to stop them from seeing their partners, Gomez said. In some cases, victims, or even abusers and teachers, aren’t aware of the abuse.

“Past relationships were bad because a lot of times I wouldn’t realize what I was doing,” Sebastian Tarascio, 17, said. “Now because of the class, I can see myself and accept them and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I did that.’”

Students don’t learn enough about teen dating violence in school, Gomez said.

“Teachers have to be observant,” she said. “A teenage relationship can be abusive. They need to be aware of that so that it can be looked at and possibly do further investigation and talk about it.”

Teen dating violence can lead to arrest or prosecution.

Taylor Redshaw was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend on Apple Valley High’s campus and is awaiting trial in adult court. The victim testified she had dated Redshaw for a week and broke up with him before the incident took place in August 2010.

According to the victim, Redshaw approached her after gym class and tried to kiss her. When she rejected, Redshaw pinned the teen against the wall and choked her, the victim said.

If convicted, Redshaw could face up to 15 years to life in prison.

Healthy relationships require independence, Gomez said. Both sides need to maintain individuality, their own goals and identity.

“You’re still a person outside your relationship,” Gomez said. “You sometimes get too invested in the other person so that you don’t invest in yourself.”

Dejhanay Hearn, 16, said her relationship with her boyfriend changed after taking the class.

“I trust him more,” she said. “We respect each other’s feelings better and we can communicate better. We are not just arguing and yelling.”

“I just learned to put myself in my partner’s shoes when we argue or disagree, see his point of view and we can talk about it,” Alyssa Teran, 17, said. “Before I was like, ‘I’m right, you are wrong. Get out of my face.’ So I’d like to communicate a lot more, and it’s helped a lot.”

Tomoya Shimura may be reached at (760) 955-5368 or Follow Tomoya on Facebook at

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