Personal Stories Shed Light on Domestic Violence at Cabrini Event

March 5th, 2018

CABRINI UNIVERSITY, RADNOR, PA–February 12, 2018–One-third of women and one-fourth of men will experience serious relationship violence in their lifetime. Those numbers are based on only the reported cases, according to Bill Mitchell, whose daughter Kristin was murdered by her boyfriend just days after graduating from college in 2005. 

Mitchell, president of the Kristin Mitchell Foundation,  spoke at a February 12th event, “Educators Back on Campus: Being Informed Educators about Dating and Domestic Violence,” held in Grace Hall at Cabrini University. The event was created for Cabrini students and alumni in the education, social work, and psychology fields, but included information relevant to any individual.

The prevalence in dating and domestic violence means we all have to be aware of the warning signs, including the impacts of domestic violence on children in the school setting. As mandated reporters, teachers have an important responsibility to recognize signs of trauma in their students and to understand their next steps in handling these instances.

Using real-life examples, the Educators Back on Campus event informed teachers about the effects of domestic violence on children and their families and provided strategies that educators can use in the classroom to best support their students who may be experiencing trauma.

During the event, presenters described how they have used the tragic losses of family members–or their own experience with violence–to gain insights that save others from harm.

Mitchell, The keynote speaker, spoke about his daughter’s murder, the warning signs that were missed, and how someone can quickly find themselves in an abusive relationship. To this last point, Mitchell shared a story from Kristin’s murderer’s previous girlfriend, who described how her relationship with him became abusive: “He was a sweet talker. He showed me so much attention that he made me feel like a princess. He showered me with extravagant gifts … it was like I had met the most incredible man. It was good for a few months, but slowly the mental abuse began. He would say things like, ‘You look so ugly in the morning.’ Or, ‘People wonder why I even go out with you.’ I would have my phone on me at all times so he could check in with me … He got in my head and he wore me down to nothing. When I eventually got out of it, I was a shell of who I was.”

Mitchell said, “I want to impress upon you that this happens to all kinds of people. Kristin failed to recognize the warning signs that were all around her, actually, of the unhealthy relationship that she was in.”

Michele and Bill Mitchell answer questions at Cabrini

One example of a warning sign, Mitchell shared, was during Kristin’s last day with her mother, Michele, at the beach in Ocean City, MD. Their time was interrupted constantly by texts and calls from “the guy who killed her two weeks later,” Mitchell said. “She didn’t know that excessively controlling behavior is a classic warning sign for potential violence in a relationship.”

Mitchell cited the book Crazy Love by Leslie Morgan Steiner to describe the pattern that all abuse tends to follow: It begins with a fairy tale romance before the abuser will slowly and steadily isolate the victim from family, friends, and things he or she likes to do. The abuser will start using threats of violence, and then actual violence, followed by a convincing apology. Then, the pattern repeats itself.

“If you see someone suffering from an abusive relationship, do something!” said Mitchell.

Examples of how to help a friend or family member in an abusive relationship include talking to a school counselor, calling the hotline (800.799.SAFE), and being a supportive listener. “Listen and believe the person who says they’re being abused,” he said. “Reassure them that they are NOT alone and it’s NOT their fault.”

Mitchell’s other important tips include: avoid asking too many questions (because, he says, you want them to come to their own conclusions about their relationship); don’t try to solve the problem for them; don’t interrupt or get angry or aggressive; don’t search out the abuser; and don’t get frustrated if things don’t clear up quickly.

“Education is the best way to prevent this type of thing from happening again, from happening to other people,” Mitchell said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).


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