Teaching teens that ‘love doesn’t have to hurt’

Way across the county, in Charlottsville, Va., former college lacrosse player George Huguely V was convicted of second-degree murder Wednesday in the beating death of his former girlfriend.

Yeardley Love, a lacrosse player like her onetime boyfriend at the University of Virginia, died in May 2010, shortly before she and Huguely were to graduate.

And since the glitz of the Grammy Awards Feb. 12, Chris Brown has been a target on Twitter by county singer Miranda Lambert, who tweeted: “He beat on a girl … Not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.”

Brown, who performed at the Grammy show and won for best R&B album, pleaded guilty in 2009 for assaulting singer Rihanna, his former girlfriend.

Examples of charmed lives gone violently wrong may seem to have little to do with kids in Snohomish County. Faith Stayner hopes parents take a closer look.

When pop culture icons or elite athletes are involved, dating violence grabs headlines. When victims are ordinary teens, the perils may not be so visible — but the wounds are just as real.

Stayner, 39, is a teen dating violence awareness and prevention educator with Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. She’ll visit the Darrington Library at 6:30 p.m. Monday and the Mountlake Terrace Library at 4 p.m. Wednesday to present a talk, “Love Doesn’t Have to Hurt.”

The free workshops are aimed at teens and parents, to help them recognize warning signs, understand that not all abuse is physical, and learn safety planning and how to get help.

Sorrows wrought by dating violence have hit close to home.

Stanwood’s Dayna Fure, 18, was stalked and killed in 2004 by an estranged boyfriend, who also killed himself. In 2008, Snohomish County paid $1.75 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by Fure’s parents. The suit alleged Stanwood police failed to protect the teen after it was reported that her stalker confronted Fure with a gun and threatened to kill himself.

Stayner, a former elementary school teacher, said her interest in the issue goes back to her years at Western Washington University. She earned a degree in sociology, with an emphasis on family violence.

As a mother of sons ages 11 and 12, Stayner is all too aware of popular music lyrics and video game images that objectify women and depict them as victims.

“I hate it,” she said. “It is definitely part of the culture. I feel in some ways that those images do promote violence toward women,” said Stayner, adding that girls and women can also be perpetrators.

At its root, Stayner said, violence toward a dating or domestic partner is about power and control. “It’s a pattern that repeats itself. It will intensify to show that the abuser maintains their status over the person,” she said.

At one talk to teens, Stayner said she described the cycle of violence — a tension that builds, then an explosion followed by a “honeymoon phase” of remorse. “One boy — he was 15 — was on the edge of his seat the whole time,” she said. He later told her he had seen the pattern between his parents.

Children who witness violence in the home are at greater risk of becoming abusers, “but it’s not their fate,” Stayner said. “It’s always a behavior that is chosen.”

Aimed at girls and boys, her messages focus both on safety for would-be victims and anger management for potential abusers. “It’s about prevention,” Stayner said.

There are obvious red flags. “Some of the basics we talk about are being excessively jealous and possessive, threats to kill themselves and pressure to have sex,” she said.

Stayner said an abuser may blame the victim — “If you wouldn’t have made me hit you.” Abuse isn’t always physical violence. Stalking on Facebook or sending 30 text messages because a girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t answer their phone are threatening behaviors.

“And isolating from friends, family, sports, religion; those are huge red flags. An abuser wants to isolate their victim,” she said.

Parents aren’t always the best helpers. Sometimes parents are very attached to their child’s boyfriend or girlfriend and discount the problems, she said. “I try to encourage students to find an adult they can trust,” Stayner said.

Simple safety tips include dating in groups and letting a teacher or counselor know if stalking happens at school. And if a teen is planning a break-up, that conversation should happen in a public place.

Stayner hopes to reach teens before any harm comes to them. She wants them to know it happens — between people of every socioeconomic level, every race, and in every type of neighborhood.

“Before you spend time alone with a person, you should know very well that you can trust that person,” she said. “It’s huge.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Dating violence prevention talks

Faith Stayner, teen dating violence awareness and prevention educator for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, will speak on the topic “Love Doesn’t Have to Hurt” at two workshops this week. She’ll discuss warning signs and how to get help at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Darrington Library, 1005 Cascade St., and at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W.

Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County will hold its annual Chocolate Lovers’ Gala fundraiser March 23 at Everett’s Comcast Arena. Doors open 5 p.m., dinner and auction 7 p.m. Tickets — $75 for individuals, $70 per person for couples, or $650 for tables of 10 — available through March 10. For tickets or to donate, call Debra Bordsen, 425-259-2827, ext. 13, or email: debra@dvs-snoco.org.

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