During the past two years not a day goes by without Lynne and Andy Russell recalling the searing pain and sadness felt upon learning of their daughter Siobhan’s brutal murder.
It was a terrible end to months of agony Siobhan suffered while involved in an abusive relationship.
Unbeknownst to her parents, the Russell’s daughter had been persistently tormented by her boyfriend and as their relationship progressed the threats grew more violent.
Her parents recall indications that the relationship was following an odd course. But they never knew the real pain Siobhan was suffering until after her death.
Even so, as they tried to address some of the obvious struggles, the Russell’s found there were few available known resources to help Siobhan as she tried to leave the relationship.
Now, if the Russell’s see their way, future victims of dating abuse will never feel the sense of helplessness their daughter endured as she struggled. In their daughter’s memory, the Russell’s have dedicated their efforts toward a mission that promises to help stop dating violence and abuse.
They have created a non-profit organization called Dating Abuse Stops Here (DASH) and launched a website, www.datingabusestopshere.com, geared toward educating parents and teenagers about the dangers of dating violence and abuse.
The website shares the stories of Siobhan and other dating abuse victims and houses resources and life-saving tips for victims and their families. The assistance and resources the Russell’s so desperately sought are now easily accessible for others in need.
Speaking to a crowd gathered in Herndon High School’s auditorium last week, Lynne Russell said, “It is too late for Siobhan, but I need to share her story and help others recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and to let others know there is immediate help available.”
Russell continued by defining teen dating abuse as physical, sexual or psychological violence within a close relationship.
Andy Russell followed his wife by saying that Siobhan’s relationship with her boyfriend did not start off poorly. “No relationship starts off abusive,” said Russell. But statistics show that many teens find themselves in abusive dating relationships.
According to the Centor for Disease Prevention and Control, one in 10 teens reports being a victim of physical dating abuse each year. One in four reports verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse each year.
Teens may not even recognize that their relationship has grown abusive. Even if they do see the problem, it is difficult to tell parents or a friend.
There are obvious signs and symptoms of dating abuse and they are easy to see if people are aware of the patterns. The DASH website identifies the early warning signs for dating abuse.
Signs of a possible abusive relationship include a partner telling the other what to do, manipulating the other’s time from family or friends, or threatening the other.
Educating teen and parents to recognize the warning signs allows them to better respond and possibly save a life.
The Russell’s along with members of the Fairfax County Police Department have addressed audiences at a number of high schools and organizations in the area, helping to raise awareness and extend resources.
“We are now members of a club...a club that we never wished to join,” said Andy Russell at the conclusion of his presentation.
“Our goal is to stop other parents and family members from sharing this unfortunate bond of having a child suffer or murdered by the hands of an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend.”