FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

After the Parkland Shooting … Teach Youth About Dating Violence

I never thought this would be my life’s work. But writing and speaking about the connections between domestic and dating violence and mass shootings has become an absurd and sickeningly frequent part of my life. Here we go, again.

The massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just 20 minutes from where I live, is yet another horrific reminder of the United States’ failure to do right by our children. We legally compel them to go to school but can’t seem to keep them safe when they are there. Although addressing guns, mental health, and school security is vital, one thing I haven’t seen being promoted is the importance of teaching young people about dating violence and healthy relationships. Yet, as is so often the case, this school shooter had been abusive to his former girlfriend and to his mother, a huge red flag that more violence is to come.

Nikolas Cruz reportedly abused his girlfriend, and when she broke up with him and began dating someone else he physically attacked her new boyfriend and threatened on Instagram to kill him. Cruz sent a photo of his gun collections and wrote, “You fucking cunt stole my ex you cunt. “Iam going to fucking kill you… Iam going to watch ypu bleed [sic].” Police reports also show that Cruz abused his late mother, hitting her with part of a vacuum cleaner and calling her a “useless bitch.” Although he was never arrested or charged with any offense, police responded to 36 calls to his family’s home between 2010 and 2016, with child/elderly abuse and domestic disturbance among the most frequently occurring. His mother told police that he was often violent, that he threatened her, called her names, hit her, punched a hole in the wall, and routinely threw things around the room.

Cruz is far from the only mass shooter with abuse in his past. The link is clear. Before he killed 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Omar Mateen beat two of his wives. Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had been kicked out of the Air Force due to domestic violence, having served a year in a military prison for beating and choking his girlfriend, threatening her with a gun and fracturing her child’s skull. Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in Las Vegas, was known to verbally abuse his girlfriend in public. The man who killed seven people near the campus of UC Santa Barbara in 2014 targeted a sorority and claimed he was waging a war on women. These are just a few examples.

School shootings often follow a breakup or rejection by a desired dating partner. At least 12 school shootings involved male perpetrators who specifically targeted girls who had broken up with them or rejected them. These include infamous shooters from the 1990s: Luke Woodham, Michael Carneal, Evan Ramsey, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Andrew Wurst, Kip Kinkel, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and TJ Solomon, among others. In each case the boys had previously threatened or acted aggressively toward the girls, yet school officials either did not recognize the red flags or chose to ignore it.

Approximately one-quarter of all women in the U.S. have experienced physical violence by a partner, and 21 percent of high school girls report suffering physical or sexual violence from someone they were dating. Some 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse by a dating partner, and 35 percent of 10th grade students report physical or verbal abuse. The CDC has found that this is the most frequently occurring type of violence experienced by youth in the U.S.

Despite these examples and statistics, research has shown that most high school principals are not very well-informed about dating violence. A study inquiring about the 2016-16 year found that 57 percent of the responding principals had assisted a dating violence victim in the previous two years but 68 percent said they lacked formal training about how to do so. Less than a third said information about dating violence was easily available or accessible to students, and 62 percent said that teachers and staff had not been trained about it. Only 35 percent said that their school’s violence prevention policies specifically addressed dating violence.

In 2010, Florida enacted Florida Statute 1006.148, which requires that district school boards adopt and implement a dating violence and abuse policy and provide training to teachers, faculty, staff, and administrators as well as include the topic in comprehensive health education curricula for students in grades 7 through 12.

I do not know whether it was offered at MSD, but I know many schools in Florida are not doing so. I have spoken to many high school groups and “no” is the resounding response when I ask about whether they have received such education. Perhaps because the law includes dating violence education as part of health education, which is not a required course but rather an elective. Or maybe, as previously mentioned study found, principals rated dating violence as a minor issue.

While we discuss what to do so that no more kids are mowed down at their schools, please let us consider actually teaching youth about dating violence, healthy relationships, and how to handle rejection and breakups.

More articles by:

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail