Area teenage girls at Baldwin High School were schooled on the signs of teen dating violence during a domestic violence workshop Tuesday morning.
Linnesia Latimore and Katillya Tucker from the Baldwin County Solicitor General's Office met with BHS' female students to discuss what qualities a partner should have in order to create a healthy relationship.
The two women will conduct another workshop with the school's teenage boys today.
This is the first time dating violence seminars have been held at the high school.
"We actually have been going to the schools for years talking about teen dating violence, but this is the first time where we've had workshops tailored to the young boys and girls. Hopefully it will grow into a more frequent thing in the schools," Latimore said.
The workshops are part of a series of activities the Baldwin County Solicitor General's Office will host throughout October in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
For the girls' session, officials opened up the discussion of teen dating violence with what appeared to be a simple question.
"What is dating violence?" asked Latimore.
The typical answer shared by most of the girls in the group was physical violence, but they soon learned that verbal and emotional abuse were forms of dating violence, too.
"Teen dating violence is all about control. It can be the use of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or financial abuse with the purpose of gaining control," Tucker said. “The person has to be able to hold something over you or find a way to make you feel like nothing in order to be able to control you.”
The two women introduced the girls to the cycle of dating violence and went into detail about the characteristics of each part of the cycle.
"The first one in the cycle we're going to talk about is anger and emotional abuse. This is when you're being put down, made to feel bad about yourself – when your partner plays mind games with you to make you feel like you're crazy," Latimore said.
She gave an example of a young couple where one was accepted to college, but they have a partner who makes them feel as if they should be guilty for the accomplishment of being accepted to an university.
"For example, you have worked really hard to keep your grades at a certain point and you've been accepted into the college of your choice. A person that is not a healthy partner to be in a relationship with may try to dominate you by making you feel bad for something you've worked hard for," she said.
The key message that officials hoped the girls would get from the seminar was to catch signs of abuse quickly before it's too late.
"When a weapon is presented during the act of violence, the likelihood of death is increased by five times. It's not a joke. If he has a gun – even if he doesn't point it at you – if he puts that gun on the table in the middle of an argument, take that as a threat to your life," Latimore said.
As they carried out their workshop activities, both women were surrounded by silhouettes displaying the names and dates of local women who were killed as a result of domestic violence.
"Some of these silhouettes that you see up here, in the bulk of these situations, a weapon was brandished many times prior to the death. If he threatens it, assume that he will eventually do it."
Latimore said by speaking with young men and women at an early age, the cycle of abuse that exists in their lives has a better chance of ending.
"One thing we've noticed is that domestic violence is a vicious cycle. If a young person displays certain signs as a teenager, they will grow up and become an abusive adult. The same is true if a young person has seen violence in their own home between their parents. If we want to truly make a difference, we must first make an impact on our youth."
Plans for a Domestic Violence Walk at Baldwin Braves Stadium, hosted by BHS, are in place for Nov. 5.
"We will have a balloon release for all the lives lost from domestic violence in Baldwin County and do our best to spread awareness to the community," said Pam Howard, BHS teacher.
The Solicitor General's Office will host its first Domestic Violence Awareness Day ceremony from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in Suite 319 on the third floor of the Baldwin County Courthouse.
The public is invited to attend to support the fight against domestic violence.
For more information, call the Baldwin County Solicitor General’s Office at 478-445-4445.