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Bridges4Kids LogoSTUDENTS TEACHING STUDENTS: The Many Names of Abuse
Personal stories used to try to slow rise in violent relationships.
Teresa Mask, Detroit Free Press, May 11, 2005
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She was wooed by his mysterious ways and elusive personality.

But 17-year-old Jasmine Murdock of Southfield said the red flags were there from the start: Her boyfriend didn't want her talking to other boys. He tried to dictate her actions and pressured her into sexual situations.

"I didn't like who I was when I was with him. I was meek, docile and more submissive. That's not me at all," Murdock said Tuesday after telling other teens to avoid such relationships.

But for a year she put up with it -- enduring the pain like thousands of other teens in similar situations.

Nearly one out of every five high school students are in abusive dating relationships, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

And young people now experience nearly double the amount of physical and verbal abuse from their partners as do married adults suffering from domestic violence.

As with adults, the abuse can seem simple, for instance, derogatory statements that embarrass someone in front of peers, but it can grow severe, into pushing, hitting or rape.

Kay Kittle, department chairwoman for Skills for Living and Physical Education at Lakeland High School in White Lake Township, said teen dating violence now is part of the health curriculum. And she said girls are particularly at risk. "The good girl wants to save the bad boy and make this boy love them," she said.

Murdock can relate.

In her poem "Man of Sin," she detailed her past relationship: "You made me love you," she wrote in one verse. "And in doing so I surrendered myself. Your cold demeanor made me want to soften your ways with my love. I wanted to change you. I wanted your approval. But I changed myself and I gave unto you."

Last April, Murdock finally let go, ending the on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend. She now is part of a group of Southfield High School students who are educating others about the dangers of relationship abuse.

On Tuesday, they took their program to Lakeland High School. Through a series of plays, the Southfield teenagers acted out scenarios of physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

They pointed out warning signs such as jealousy, resentment, hypersensitivity and disrespectful actions.

Those who watched the skits said they were enlightened.

"I didn't really know about the emotional part," said 15-year-old Ed Pattison of Wixom. "I've seen a little bit of the physical in the hallways."

It's not uncommon, they said, to see guys grab girls by the arms in the halls or pull them along.

"Dating violence is a big problem among today's high school and even middle school students," said Cheryl McDonald, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which sponsors Southfield's program and others throughout the state.

Across the country, at least 18 percent of high school girls and 7 percent of boys said they have been physically hurt by someone they are dating.

Of Michigan's more than 48,000 reports of domestic violence in 2003, about 4,700 were victims between the ages of 10 and 19, though not necessarily all are from relationship abuse, according to the State Police Uniform Crime Report 2003.


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