Saunders: Even for high school students, domestic violence is a big issue

bsaunders@newsobserver.comDecember 13, 2012 

Remember the three “r’s” – readin’, ’ritin’ and ’rithmetic – that used to be the cornerstone of a well-rounded education?

It may be time to add another “r”: right cross, as in the kind too many high school girls have to duck when their boyfriends become violent.

It’s mind-blowing to even think about, but some girls in high school are having to learn to do that at an age when their main concerns should be which gown to wear to the prom or where they’ll go to college.

Ritu Kaur, a director of training and education for InterAct, a local group that works to help women extricate themselves from abusive relationships by providing shelter and information, said one in 10 girls in high school has been physically abused by a boyfriend. Even more have been verbally, emotionally or psychologically abused.

I talked to Kaur and Laura Hilton, InterAct’s director of community education, Wednesday at a march the group held in downtown Raleigh to commemorate the six women in Wake County who’ve been killed by husbands or boyfriends since May.

Hilton said that girls who are abused in high school are more likely to be abused as adults. Equally distressing is the realization that abusive dudes who can’t control their rage but want to control their high school sweethearts will continue abusing, too.

Abuse, a study cited by Kaur shows, is a despicable gift that keeps on giving. So, ladies, despite your mate’s tearful pleas, promises to never do it again and flowers, if he hits you once he is going to hit you again — unless he seeks professional help.

That’s precisely what one man did after reading the column I wrote last week about domestic violence.

‘He wants ... help’

Leigh Duque, InterAct’s executive director, told me that “a well-dressed, well-spoken, quiet-mannered man walked into InterAct and told us he is a perpetrator of domestic violence. That’s by no means a usual occurrence. ... We provide a lifeline of support for victims of domestic and sexual violence, but we are not a provider of services for abusers.

“As a direct result of reading your column, he’s identified his own behavior as abusive – and he wants to own it, get help, and change. We were able to connect him with the support he needs to take those steps.”

Let the church say “Amen.” If you want to contact InterAct, the number is 919-828-7501.

Erika Martin of Enloe High School knows more about domestic violence than any 18-year-old should. “Two of my friends were physically abused” and others were verbally abused, she said

Both types leave scars, although one leaves the type you can’t see.

That’s why, Martin said, Enloe’s Student Council is sponsoring a charity ball Saturday to raise money for InterAct.

Goal of $50,000

If you feel you can’t attend the ball at Marbles Kids Museum from 7 to 11 p.m. – say you ate too much at Thanksgiving and your tux is now too snug or your gown doesn’t fit – Martin said “come anyway.” A tie or a cocktail dress will do fine, she said.

Really, all you need is a desire to help eradicate the need for women and girls to learn that fourth “r.” And how to duck it.

In honor of Enloe’s 50th anniversary, Martin said, students want to give InterAct $50,000. They have already raised $8,000 by donating their lunch money or collecting it from the community. To find out how you can help, go to

“The main point,” InterAct’s Hilton said, “is that love shouldn’t hurt.” or 919-836-2811

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