Riley Murdock ‘15 – Due to the domestic violence controversies involving NFL star Ray Rice and Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell in the media spotlight, a new light is shining on this volatile issue. The aforementioned controversies provide a renewed focus on an issue as old as time, and there’s never been a better time to help. Students should know both how to identify—and escape—abuse.

When it comes to teenage (or really, any age) couples, one can be hurt through means other than physical: emotional and verbal abuse is more common, and is often unrealized. Anyone, man or woman, can be an abuser or a victim. If your partner uses threats, yells, and/or taunts or mocks you, the relationship may be abusive. Rationalization of the abuser’s actions is a common barrier to leaving a hostile situation; some may not know that their partners are not supposed to act that way. Some may have never been in a “normal” relationship, and may not realize that relationships can be different.

“I just think that women shouldn’t have to afraid of leaving, or being with, their partners. They shouldn’t have to be afraid getting out of a relationship where they’re abused in any way,” Mackenzie Sprecher ‘16 says. “The entire point of a relationship is to love and care for one another, and abuse, whether or not it’s intentional, is the exact opposite of that.”

Domestic violence isn’t limited to dating or marital relationships, however; parental abuse is a major issue as well. Broken homes can affect a child’s emotional and mental development, leading to behavioral, academic, and personal issues later in life. While physical discipline is not inherently harmful, there is a very fine line between it and abuse. The goal of discipline is to teach; the goal of abuse is to release anger or instill fear. As in relationships, abuse is not only physical; emotional and verbal abuse, as well as neglect, can severely harm a child’s development.

“School is hard enough, but when students are dealing with the affects of abuse, it makes everything ten times more difficult,” RHS counselor Amber Fountain says. “We hope that students always know that help is available, at school and in the community.”

Abuse can also occur in friendships, or amongst peers. Manipulative friends or persistent bullies can instill fear and insecurity, separating the victims from their priorities. Many students in these situations find it hard to make it through the day, and may see their grades drop from being unable to focus. Mr. Robertson, after seeing his students deal with these issues, founded Peer Mediation. Peer Mediation is a program designed to help settle disputes between students, helping to promote harmony within the student body.

“I got involved because I was concerned for student safety and their ability to focus on their schooling,” explains Mr. Robertson. “You don’t put 2000 people in a building and expect them to all get along automatically. Hopefully, we’ve helped everyone get along better.”

Robertson and Peer Mediation are currently planning their 9th annual “Challenge Day”, an event where everyone can tell their own story, and have others empathize and listen. The event is slated for sometime in December.

If you are in an abusive relationship or have a problem you think peer mediation could help with, contact Mr. Robertson or visit the peer mediation page at the RHS website. For information or ways to get help, visit:

  • Parental Abuse

  • Relationship Abuse

  • Toxic Friendships

  • Bullying

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