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Dating violence message shared with students


A room full of sophomore English students sat quietly while teen-dating expert Dr. Jill Murray shared her story of abuse during a presentation Wednesday at Keaau High School.

“You know those little red wagons?” she asked the group. “Well, my father grabbed the long handle off one of those and started coming after my brother one day. My brother ran down the hall, out the back door and tried to hop over a fence while screaming. His arm was caught on one side of the fence and my father took his arm and snapped it.”

The classroom went silent, and all eyes were focused on Murray as she continued to describe how her father would terrorize her mother and rape her every day of her life since she was 4 years old.

“You know how little a 4 year old is? A little, tiny, 4 year old … ” she said.

Empowered by her past, the practicing psychotherapist said when she started working at a domestic violence shelter in graduate school, she found that for the 250 women in the shelter, almost all of them starting experiencing abuse during their teenage years.

Since then, she’s traveled around the nation teaching teenagers about the differences between a healthy relationship and an abusive relationship.

Using a PowerPoint, she explained the various signs of dating abuse. These signs include isolation from friends, family and activities; the person frequently cries or is very sad and very nervous, the individual dresses differently or more secretive; makes excuses for the partner’s behaviour; makes their significant other keep his or her’s phone with them at all times of the day and night or the individual blames themselves for difficulty in the relationship while friends and family don’t like the partner.

And abuse, she explained, can come in many forms, with mental abuse being the most prevalent.

“If you’re being told that you’re stupid, that you’re worthless, that you’re no good, that nobody else will ever want you, that you’ll never amount to anything, let me just tell you something, I don’t know anything about you, but what I do know is that whoever is telling you that is freaking wrong. They’re just wrong,” she said.

Murray’s visit to Keaau was among several stops that day. With the help of contingency funds from multiple Hawaii County Council members, she was able to bring her knowledge and share her story with students on the Big Island.

Along with Keaau High School, she gave presentations at various schools on the island including the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences, Pahoa High School, and schools in Kona.

Cyd Hoffeld, health promotions manager at Bay Clinic where they work with teens at its Teen Clinic, said Murray’s visit sent an important message to area kids that are in need of hearing it.

“We see so many kids who are dealing with teen dating violence, “she said.

No statistics were available at the time of print regarding teen dating violence on the Big Island.

Dean Cevallos, principal at Keaau High School, said he was thrilled to have Murray visit.

“We believe that this is an issue that is grounded and rooted in the kids,” he said. “We’re trying now through our curriculum to teach our kids that they have the power and to learn what they can do for themselves.”

Visit Murray’s website for more information at drjillmurray.com.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.