The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 26, 2013

Teens whose past 'went really, really wrong' get guidance in taking control

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — About 40 teens who live in foster homes and are about to turn 18 got a lot of support Saturday as they prepare to move into a world where they make their own decisions.

The Safe For Me forum, held at Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid and coordinated by the Garfield County Domestic Violence Task Force, gave the teens a chance to learn about domestic violence and its impact on children, the laws on domestic violence and sexual assault, healthy relationships and dating, social networking, stalking and electronic harassment.

Presenters from a diverse cross-section of the community came to talk with the teens about how to navigate relationships and life, so they know the events of their past do not have to shape their future.

Chris Anderson, a behavioral health rehabilitation specialist with the Growing Hope Network in Enid, pointed out that making relationships work takes effort on both parts.

“There are some things you learn about people in relationships that you don’t like,” Anderson said. “That’s when it’s time to talk about things.”

He emphasized the importance of forgiveness in making relationships work, but reminded the teens to keep the signs of emotional and psychological abuse in mind. Things like name-calling, humiliating the person in front of others, and making threats are about power and control, Anderson said.

“Remember to watch for some of those signs in your relationships,” he said.

Anderson also gave tips on how healthy relationships work — with equality, respect, honesty, accountability and partnership.

“Discuss it, talk about it, see if you can get past it,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you can’t.”

The teens also heard from an Enid police detective on why its important to phone police when someone they know is living with domestic violence. Jeff Weber told the story of a 4-year-old boy whose father came over and beat up his mother in front of the boy. Four days later, after the boy thought his mother had been sleeping all day, a neighbor discovered the mother was dead.

The boy was sent to live with his dad. It would have been different if the neighbors, who knew the boy’s parents often fought, had called the police when fights were going on.

“You’ve had your problems in your life,” Weber told the teens. “But you choose your direction.”

Garfield County District Attorney Mike Fields told the teens he hoped the forum had given them some tools to use in life.

“The reason you are here is because something went really, really wrong in your past,” Fields said. “But when you are 18, guess who gets to make the decisions? You do.”