Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month: Alina’s Light
CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) – Worldwide, one in three adolescents has experienced, experiences or will experience dating violence before their 18th birthday, according to the Abuse Prevention Center.
For a mother, Elly Sheykhet, this statistic touches too close to home.
“We found our daughter in a pool of her own blood,” Sheykhet said.
Sheykhet’s daughter Alina started dating when she was 17. That someone is now in jail and convicted of his murder. Alina was 20 years old.
“We came, everyone was sleeping, so my husband had to break his bedroom door because it was locked from the inside,” Sheykhet said. “And we found her. We found her and her face was unrecognizable. It was just awful. To say that I was devastated is to say nothing.
Alina previously filed a protection order against her ex-boyfriend, whom he raped. Sheykhet said that in hindsight, the Abuse Protection (PFA) Alina filed was just a piece of paper.
Sheikhet too published a book in 2020 on his experience of mourning after the death of his daughter.
“Alina was 20 years old. He was a bright and beautiful person, ”said Sheykhet. “Smart, funny; she was hilarious. You will never forget his infectious laugh. She still had a bright smile on her face.
Although Alina was killed in Pittsburgh, her story resonates here in central Illinois, home to the Center for Prevention of Abuse.
Laura Kowalske, director of prevention education at the Center for Prevention of Abuse, said teen dating violence is more common than we think.
“Teen dating violence is happening across the country; in fact, all over the world, ”Kowalske said. “We know statistically that one in three teenagers has experienced, is or will experience teen dating violence before their 18th birthday. Which is truly a staggering statistic. In fact, that equates to one and a half million high school students who experience it every year. “
The Center works with the community to educate young people about dating and domestic violence. Kowalske said they try to educate teens to prevent abuse before it starts.
She recognized that it can be very frustrating and scary for a parent to see their teenager in an unhealthy relationship, but watching for the warning signs is crucial. Kowalske pointed out five red flags: jealousy or possessiveness, a change in clothes or appearance, excessive “registration” or contact, lack of participation in regular activities, and isolation.
“It is true that the most dangerous moment in an abusive romantic relationship is when the victim chooses and makes the decision to leave the relationship,” Kowalske said. “And so when we talk to teens about abusive relationships and make this choice to leave, we’re really trying to give them all the tools they need to be able to do it safely.”
Kowalske said she recommends creating a safety plan with yourself or a loved one who may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
“Often passers-by, family members, those involved in the circle of the abused person, can help by creating a safety plan… being someone that person can count on to help in times of need. “said Kowalske. “Help them think about scenarios and how they would react in those scenarios in a safe way to get out of the situation and out of danger. ”
Another organization in central Illinois that strives to educate middle and high school students is the Hult Center for Healthy Living. For them, healthy relationship education is part of their “comprehensive sexual health education”.
“A big part of raising awareness that we want to educate young people about teen dating violence is just about whether a partner treats you in a healthy way, but also whether your own behaviors and actions in a relationship can be seen as. healthy. or unhealthy, ”said Becca Mathis, adolescent health coordinator at the Hult Center.
Kowalske said if someone is afraid for their own safety or the safety of a loved one, it is time to seek help. She said holding a victim of dating violence accountable is crucial.
“Because power and control has been taken away from them, by the abuser, as a spectator or family member, we don’t want to be another person telling them what to do or taking away their power and control. on a situation. them, ”Kowalske said.
Alina’s Light works to educate the Pittsburgh community about domestic violence and teen dating violence just like the Center for Prevention of Abuse does here in central Illinois.
People with a loved one facing an unhealthy relationship are encouraged to call the hotline at 1 (800) 559-SAFE (7233).