Johanna Orozco, of Cleveland, a victim of teenage violence, spoke to a crowd of local counselors, teachers and teens at the YWCA on North Park Avenue in Warren. Orozco’s ex-boyfriend shot her in the face in 2007.
A state law signed last year by then-Gov. Ted Strickland and sponsored by former state Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles mandated that public schools begin to teach students in grades seven-12 about teen-dating violence starting this school year.
Implementation of the law, known as The Tina Croucher Act, hasn’t gone perfectly, said Cheryl Tarantino, executive director of the Warren domestic-violence shelter Someplace Safe.
Because the Legislature didn’t provide any funding to carry it out and because the law didn’t specify what kind of education is required, some schools are doing almost nothing, Tarantino said.
On Thursday, Someplace Safe and the 13 other Northeast Ohio organizations concerned about dating violence brought three of Ohio’s best-known teen-violence experts to the YWCA on North Park Avenue to train local counselors, teachers and teens on the subject.
Johanna Orozco of Cleveland may be the best living example of the consequences of teen-dating violence.
When Orozco, 22, first stepped to the microphone, it was apparent why people listen to her.
Not only is her face disfigured from a shotgun blast she suffered in 2007 when her ex-boyfriend shot her at close range, but she speaks in a dynamic way and relates to teens.
Orozco’s story, which has been told numerous times on national television and in a seven-day series in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was that she was the victim of a tall, dark, handsome, intelligent and violent teen named Juan Ruiz Jr., Orozco’s boyfriend of two years.
Orozco had known Ruiz since the second grade. They started dating in early 2005, when Orozco was a sophomore in high school. Ruiz shot Orozco in March 2007.
The court sentenced Ruiz to 27 years in prison in September 2007 after he pleaded guilty to raping and attempting to kill Orozco. Ruiz was 17 at the time.
But during her talk Thursday, Orozco pointed out that her relationship with Ruiz was anything but violent in the beginning.
Four to five months into the relationship, Ruiz became jealous and started to tell Orozco what she could wear and who she could talk to. He accused her of cheating and began to call her every three to five minutes on the phone.
Her friends and family noticed that she had changed — becoming isolated from them. She lied about the reasons why.
A year into the relationship, Ruiz hit her for the first time, so she broke up with him, only to change her mind a short time later.
The relationship got worse over the following year — slapping, squeezing and hitting her in places where others wouldn’t notice. She continued to lie to friends and family about the source of the injuries because “I loved him. I cared about him,” she said. Eventually, she also feared him.
About a month before Ruiz shot her, she left him, but Ruiz found her and raped her at knifepoint, which she reported to someone at school, which led to juvenile charges being filed against Ruiz.
Ruiz was let out of juvenile custody on house arrest and stalked Orozco for two weeks before shooting her as she sat in her car.
The blast removed half of her lower face. Bone from her leg was used to rebuild her jaw.
The other speakers were Elsa and Jim Croucher of Monroe, near Cincinnati, the parents of Tina Croucher, who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1992.
Elsa Croucher said her daughter’s boyfriend was a good-looking football player who regularly hit her daughter, leaving bruises.
Tina Croucher lied about how she got the bruises, but eventually her family found out, and Tina stopped seeing him.
“Then he really caused problems,” Elsa said, describing “horrible messages” that he left on voice mails, and times he went to the family’s church and to Elsa’s workplace.
“Four days before Christmas, he shot her in the head and killed himself in her room,” Elsa said.
The Crouchers were instrumental in getting the Legislature to pass The Tina Croucher Act.
Published: Fri, February 25, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.
By: Ed Runyan
Photo by: Robert K Yosay
Take care and STAY SAFE!
Tamron Hall: How domestic violence hurt my family
It starts with the words “I love you,” and it ends with a punch in the face.
It starts with the line, “It’s us against the world,” and it ends with her against the wall in tears.
It starts with the suggestion of what to wear, and it ends with him saying, “I tear you down to build you up. You are mine.”
I have heard the stories. I have seen the pain. I have watched a loved one suffer in an abusive relationship, and ultimately die because she just could not bring herself to leave.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I recently had the honor for the second time to host the awards dinner for a dating violence awareness organization called Day One.
Day One, a New York City-based group, started its journey of helping victims and survivors of abuse in 2003. The goal: to prevent abuse and protect those who suffer at the hands of–in most cases–people they thought loved them. Over a span of seven years, Day One has helped 22,000 young people learn how to identify abuse and to foster and maintain healthy relationships.
Just writing those words, 22,000 young people, sends chills down my spine. Think about it. We live in a world where we must teach young people how to identify abuse. With so many messages and images of what is right and wrong, there is still so much to be taught on this issue. Why is this the case?
Well, how many times do you think an adult (let alone a teenager) believes that a girlfriend or boyfriend calling a hundred times in a row is love? He or she, blinded by love, sometimes does not realize when that person is crossing the line of what is reasonable. Those repeated calls and messages saying, “You will pick up the phone!” are a demand to be heard, whether it’s wanted or not.
How many have assumed that “crazy in love” is a good thing? How many have thought, “He is so crazy about me, he followed me,” or “He is so crazy about me, he came over without calling and cried at my front door,” or “He is so crazy about me, he beat up another boy.” It happens more often than most could imagine.
At this year’s Day One awards dinner, I listened as two smart, independent, and brave young ladies told of the abuse they suffered at the hands of young men they once loved.
Christina told the story of being held hostage in a home and beaten with a belt by the “love of her life.” His love marks came in the form of stitches in her head. One day, he even cornered her outside of her school. He was furious that she had cut off all ties to him. He told Christina, “I will put you in that hospital across the street if you don’t give me your new phone number.” Christina told of how she felt there was no help–somehow, the system was failing her and helping him. It was not until Christina met Ian Harris, an attorney with Day One, that Christina was able to get an order of protection that would keep her former love away for five years–the longest term that can be applied in New York family court. Even so, many young women find all-too-soon that an order of protection, even for five years, is not a guarantee of safety. You ponder that for me. In spite of what she went through, Christina is now a successful young woman, studying law in college and working to help others.
The second speaker was Karin, who, like so many of us, found the man of her dreams her first year in college. But instead of a love story to share for the ages, her story was one of abuse. Karin was isolated from her family and friends as a result of being manipulated by her boyfriend. He uttered the infamous line, “I tear you down so I can build you back up” when Karin asked why he verbally abused her over and over again. Karin found her world closing in on her as every holiday was spent with his family–not her own. He demanded that she spend every hour of the day with him and not her own friends. It’s as if she woke up to a world he built–or should I say, a prison. Karin’s tipping point came when her boyfriend threatened to drive his car off the road–she believed that his goal was to kill them both. Karin soon talked to a counselor and found the strength that she needed to leave the relationship. A short time later, Karin contacted Day One in hopes of becoming a volunteer. Not only is she currently a volunteer, Karin is now in her first year of law school.
Day One cites a recent New York City Teen Health Risk Survey showing that one in ten teenagers had experienced physical or sexual assault in a dating relationship within the previous year. Even more startling, it tells that nearly 1,400 teenagers call the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline each month. Of course, domestic violence isn’t limited to any one city or state–it’s a problem that’s becoming more and more prevalent throughout the entire country.
I could go on forever with facts and figures that might leave your head swirling. Instead, I will leave you with this: Renate, my fun-loving, energetic and streetwise sister is my inspiration for this story. She was found one Sunday morning, facedown in her backyard pool. Her hair had been pulled from the back of her head. Her nails were broken on every finger, indicating that she had fought back. But whom had she been fighting? I will never learn in the form of official charges, but what I can say about her death is that the only person ever considered a suspect or person of interest in the case was the man she loved. She often remarked that they had a “love-hate relationship,” and that they would “break up to make up.” Sadly, on that day, Renate’s view of love ended in struggle and pain. My father always believed that justice would eventually be served, but he passed away only a few years after Renate, and his dream of seeing her killer brought to justice will never be realized.
Day One, and other organizations like it, has made a commitment to so many mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to end domestic abuse. In fact, Day One has reached over 6,000 college students through awareness events. But no matter how far they have come, they still need volunteers, they still need voices and they still need you.
The victims are getting younger. The abusers are getting younger. The clock is ticking…
In memory of
Tamron Hall is the host of NewsNation on MSNBC, which airs weekdays at 2pm. She is also a frequent substitute on NBC’s Today Show
For more information about DayOne, go to: www.dayoneny.org
Respectfully submitted via MSNBC
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence, Part 3…
Last year, Maryland passed a bill to encourage — rather than require — school districts to teach the topic. It was less than what Bill and Michele Mitchell, who lost their 21-year-old daughter, Kristin, to dating violence, wanted. But it was a start, and the couple from Ellicott City will continue to push, they say.
Bill Mitchell says he hopes that more young people will begin to see warning signs where his family did not.
Just hours before she was killed in 2005, Kristin had texted her boyfriend: “You are being ridiculous. Why cant i do something with my friends.”
He later found and heard about other texts, including one that asked why she had gone to her class rather than spend time with her boyfriend. Kristin was in her senior year at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and graduated three weeks before her death.
Says Mitchell: “Text messaging, in the wrong hands, has to be about the worst thing that’s come along when we’re talking about dating violence and controlling personalities.”
In a recent survey, nearly one in four of those ages 14 to 24 reported that partners check in multiple times a day to see where they are or who they are with, and more than one in 10 said partners demanded passwords, according to a survey by the Associated Press and MTV.
One challenge is that many teens do not view excessive texting as a problem and may not recognize abusive behaviors. “If you’re getting 50 messages an hour and you want 50 messages an hour, that’s not a problem,” says Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of Break the Cycle, which works to end dating violence. “But if you’re getting 50 messages an hour and you don’t even want one, that’s very different.”
These sorts of topics are addressed through a teen help line called Love Is Respect and several national awareness campaigns, including MTV’s effort on digital abuse, A Thin Line, a joint effort on digital dating abuse called That’s Not Cool and the initiative Love Is Not Abuse.
In California, Jill Murray says her cases have included a 16-year-old whose ex-boyfriend paid four friends to help him text when he was asleep or at work. “It was like psychological torture.”
Murray urges parents to pay more attention to their children’s texting lives, checking to see how many messages they get, at what hour and from whom. “Parents don’t know this is going on whatsoever,” she says.
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence…Part 2
As a parent, Lynne Russell thinks the privacy of text messaging helped obscure the danger that her daughter, Siobhan “Shev” Russell, 19, faced. The teenager from Oak Hill, Va., was killed by her boyfriend in April 2009, 10 weeks after delivering a graduation speech at Mountain View Alternative High School.
Later, Lynne Russell and her husband found scores of texts, some disturbing, that Siobhan’s boyfriend, now 18, had sent. “I don’t think she recognized the warning signs, and we didn’t see the signs until it was too late,” says Russell, who plans to start a dating-violence awareness campaign in the fall.
A federal survey released this month showed one of 10 high school students nationally reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. In Maryland, which did a similar survey, one in six said they were hurt.
Although such surveys do not show a rise in violence, the texting culture has changed the experience.
In Rockville, a woman in her 20s was so closely tracked that her partner insisted that she text him photos to prove her whereabouts — each with a clock displaying the time, says Hannah Sassoon, coordinator of Montgomery County’s domestic violence response team.
Katalina Posada, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, says one of her friends is frequently texted by a jealous boyfriend. “It’s like the 20 questions a parent would ask,” she says, adding that she finally told her friend: “This isn’t right.”
Textual harassment is getting more attention as concerns about dating violence mount. In the past several years, about a dozen states have passed or are considering laws to bring dating violence education into schools.
The legislative push comes partly from parents such as Gary Cuccia, a Pennsylvania father whose daughter, Demi Brae, was killed a day after her 16th birthday in 2007. Cuccia says his daughter had broken up with her teenage boyfriend, whom the family thought of as likable, if a little jealous.
In the days before Demi’s death, Cuccia would later learn, her ex-boyfriend texted her again and again: “You know you can’t live without me,” he wrote. “U need to see me.” And: “I’m ballin my eyes.”
When Demi finally agreed to see the boy, he came over when she was alone and stabbed her 16 times in her living room.
Her father says he thinks that the largely private nature of texting is an important aspect of the problem.
“When I was growing up, we had one phone in the whole house, and if you were fighting with your girlfriend, everybody knew about it,” Cuccia says.
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence...Part 1
The text messages to the 22-year-old Virginia woman arrived during the day and night, sometimes 20 or 30 at once. Her ex-boyfriend wanted her back. He would not be refused. He texted and called 758 times.
In New York, a 17-year-old trying to break up with her boyfriend got fewer messages, but they were menacing. “You don’t need nobody else but me,” read one. Another threatened to kill her.
It is all part of what is increasingly called “textual harassment,” a growing aspect of dating violence at a time when cellphones and unlimited texting plans are ubiquitous among the young. It can be insidious, because messages pop up at the sender’s will: Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me?
“It’s gotten astonishingly worse in the last two years,” says Jill Murray, who has written several books on dating violence and speaks on the topic nationally. Especially for those who have grown up in digital times, “it’s part and parcel of every abusive dating relationship now.”
The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 a.m. demands. Texts arrive in class, at the dinner table, in movie theaters — 100 or more a day, for some.
Harassment is “just easier now, and it’s even more persistent and constant, with no letting up,” says Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University of Virginia, which became the focus of national attention in May with the killing of 22-year-old lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Police have charged Love’s ex-boyfriend, George Huguely V, also 22, with first-degree murder and allege that he removed her computer from the crime scene as he fled. Police were investigating whether Huguely sent Love threatening e-mails or text messages.
Kacey Kirkland, a victim services specialist with the Fairfax County Police Department, has seen textual harassment in almost every form: Threats. Rumors. Lies. Late-night questions.
“The advances in technology are assisting the perpetrators in harassing and stalking and threatening their victims,” Kirkland says.
In the case involving the 22-year-old who received 758 messages from her ex-boyfriend — all unanswered — the harassment led to stalking charges and a protective order, Kirkland says.
Harassment by text is only one facet of abusive relationships, which often involve contact in person, by phone, by e-mail, and through Facebook or other social networking sites.
Warning signs hidden
“What technology offers is irrefutable evidence of the abuse,” says Cindy Southworth, founder of the Safety Net Project on technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, who says it helps in court and is hoping for an increase in conviction rates.
Yeardly Love’s family is beginning their healing process of losing a child, a loved one. George Hugely’s family is in the midst of trying to understand the devastating crime that their son has committed and supporting him with love. Friends and students are trying to stay focused as the semester comes to an end with finals and day-to-day life. The UVA lacrosse team members (female and male) move into tough practices filled with emotions yet knowing that Yeardley would want them to participate in the upcoming tournament. And, UVA Administration is in the midst of looking at ways that they can combat the possibility of ever experiencing such a tragedy again. But…are the college administrations really “getting it”?
I say “no” the administrators are not totally “getting it”.
Putting into place the requirement of background checks, receiving alerts if a student has a “run-in” with the law and understanding, acknowledging and being proactive about intimate dating violence within the student body are totally different.
While I feel that proposed policies that UVA is looking into in order to protect the “liability of a college/university” is being proactive from a business stance; the “liability” of being proactive for the student body is not.
I do not believe that administrators are “getting it” when it comes to understanding intimate partner dating violence. They do not understand that an abuser doesn’t necessarily have “run-ins” with the law nor any criminal history. For God’s sake we have law enforcement and military personnel who are abusers – get my drift? An abuser does not necessarily “fit a mold”.
College administrators do not understand that our young people do not know, are not educated nor understand the warning signs and red flags of abuse. Administrations do not understand that it is imperative to require faculty members to be “educated” about signs of abuse. It should be stipulated within a faculty members contract that “abuse and assault continuing education is an annual requirement”. And, if suspected it must be reported, acknowledged, investigated and must be held accountable.
So while they are putting into place all of the “business liability” precautions they are still doing nothing to assist the student body (females and males). They are not putting into place any “requirements” for education for students from a proactive stance.
Isn’t that what college is ALL about – the students, their education/life skills, their safety, their dreams?
Schools around the country are doing great things in an effort to bring awareness to teen dating abuse and promote healthy dating habits. Stacey Tanner’s ninth grade Personal and Family Development classes in Perrytown, TX have adopted “The Love is Respect Project” with help from resources they received from loveisrespect. They have distributed wallet cards describing warning signs of an abusive relationship to students throughout the high school as well as placing loveisrespect posters around the school. The students are even taking the project a step further, by competing at the state and possibly national level. Kudos to Stacey Tanner’s classes for doing such great work for teen dating abuse awareness! Click here to check out the pdf of a newspaper article on the class’ efforts. Plus we have more pics after the jump.