Crusading mom helps teens, parents learn warning signs

Bobbi Sudberry doesn’t want other teens to suffer the same fate as her 17-year-old daughter, Kaity, who was slain by an abusive boyfriend in 2008.
The crusading mom will be sharing Kaity’s story on Sunday, Dec. 2, when teens and their parents gather to discuss the ways to avoid or end an unhealthy relationship.
The presentation will be hosted by Arizona Community Church as part of its Parent Wisdom Exchange workshop series. Pastor Dan Knuff said the talks are aimed at helping parents of teens address the changing environment in which violence has become more pervasive—and more worrysome.
“We’ve been doing these on peer pressure, social media,” he said. “A lot of parents want some help understanding youth culture.”
A study listed on the website of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that one in five teens, including both boys and girls, will experience an abusive relationship.
“Just because somebody is raised in a healthy family environment does not mean they can’t become victims of domestic violence,” Sudberry said.
Sudberry said exploring romantic relationships is a new and often innocent experience for teenagers, and knowing the qualities of healthy interactions can help prevent the permeation and tolerance of abusive behavior.
Knuff said he finds unhealthy teen relationships to be a growing problem.
“Sometimes it takes a really jarring story like Kaity’s to wake people up to the fact that it could be their story,” he said.
Bobbi Sudberry founded the nonprofit Kaity’s Way organization to help spread her story and inform teens about the aspects that separate healthy young relationships from those that are steeped in abusive behavior.
Her presentation will explore the red flags for teens to watch out for when entering a relationship. Among them is what Sudberry calls the “24/7 rule,” when one partner wants to constantly be with or monitor the other.
“The victim thinks, ‘Wow, they must really care about me,’” she said, “but it’s an exercise in power and control, not love.”
She will also offer suggestions on how to leave an abusive relationship, which can be very difficult for many victims.
Sudberry’s organization has championed the rights of abuse victims, working with former state Senator Jonathan Paton and the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence to pass “Kaity’s Law” in 2009.
The law allowed victims in dating relationships to get an order of protection and allows police to arrest an abuser without obtaining a warrant. The previous relationship guidelines applied only to victims that were married, related or lived with their abuser.
Sudberry will conclude with the five aspects of a healthy relationship, condensed in the acronym PEACE: patience, emphathy, acceptance caring and equality.
“You add that to respect, love and honesty, and what you have is a mixture of what goes into a healthy relationship,” she said.
Sudberry said her outreach events have also given abusive partners perspective on their behavior. “People have told me, ‘I will treat my partner better,’” she said.
The presentation, scheduled for Dec. 2 at 10 a.m., is free and open to public.
Arizona Community Church is at 9325 S. Rural Road, Tempe.



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