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Teen Dating Violence Remains An Issue In Phoenix

(Photo by BrieAnna Frank - Spot 127)
Students and others recently met at Maryvale High School to discuss dating violence among teenagers.

Teen dating violence is problem across the country. In Phoenix, two teenagers died this spring in a murder-suicide. BrieAnna Frank, a student reporter from Spot 127, KJZZ’s Youth Media Center, looks at an issue that isn’t going away. 

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this alarming statistic: If you look at a group of 10 teenagers in a high school classroom, one of them has been physically abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s 10 percent.

Maryvale High School, in an economically depressed area of the city, is taking aim at the problem, at least at their school. Officials hosted a Phoenix City Town Hall meeting to talk about it. Rod Ambrose, with a group called Project Brave, told students they’re the ones who can change the number.

Alondra Morales knows the issue all too well.  She came to the meeting to tell others they aren’t alone.

She says her ex-boyfriend used to hit her. It seemed to be a joke at first.

“Okay, you would smack me, playing around, but then it would get a little more serious and I would tell him to stop, and he would not stop,” Morales said.

She said her boyfriend also touched her sexually, and refused to stop when she asked him to. The victims’ group RAINN says girls in Morales’s age group are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape or attempted sexual assault.

For Kaity Sudberry, leaving her boyfriend wasn’t enough. She broke up with him in December 2007. But her mother says he continued to intimidate, threaten, and stalk her.

Then on Jan. 28, 2008 — the unthinkable. Kaity’s stepmother Bobi Sudberry heard about a shooting in her neighborhood.

“All of these things put together, when you hear about something horrible, you’re just like, ‘oh my god,’ don’t let that be my daughter,” Sudberry said.

Police records show Kaity Sudberry had been shot in the head and killed by her ex-boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself.

Years later, teen dating violence is still a problem in Phoenix.

Alyssa Hermosillo, 18, currently knows victims and abusers, but says people don’t take the issue seriously enough.

“They kinda treat it like it’s nothing. Like it’s what a man is supposed to do,” Hermosillo said.

Hermosillo says she also knows of male victims, including a friend’s boyfriend.

“She always smacks him in the face and calls him stupid. I don’t think guys should be treated that way,” Hermosillo said.

But officials are taking notice, on the local and national level. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s “ Paint Phoenix Purple” initiative is designed to draw attention to the problem, and President Barack Obama devoted the entire month of February to awareness of the issue.