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Teens need to learn early about signs of abusive relationships, Utah experts say



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A shooting in Springville on Wednesday made it tragically clear that violence in a relationship can happen to anyone, including teenagers. Police said Masao Kaanga, 19, mortally wounded 17-year-old Lily Conroy after an apparent breakup, then turned the gun on himself.

Advocates said it's important for young people to start learning about good and bad relationships early. It's important that the community lets our young ones know that they can always get help.

It's tough for any of us to see a relationship end in tragedy.

"This is one of those outcomes that you never hope to see," said Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. "I feel for anyone who has to go through this."

She said the Springville tragedy highlighted the need to teach prevention early.

"Violence can impact anyone, anywhere. It doesn't have to be in a home. It can be in any form of relationship where that power dynamic can come into play," Campbell said.

The Utah Department of Health looked into some of those dynamics in a 2019 study and found that about one-third of our youth report having been in an unhealthy dating relationship.

More than a quarter said they've been verbally or emotionally harmed while 1 in 11 say they've been forced to do something sexual.

Campbell said, "And so when we begin to see some of those unhealthy pieces, not always do kids and teens know to recognize that as being potentially violent."

It's why, Campbell said, we have to have those talks, even with our children. "How many times are they texting you? Is there anything where you feel like maybe this is too much or am I feeling uncomfortable with that attention?"

Abusers may also use isolation as a tool. It's important our loved ones know they can always get help.

"Some of the struggles that I see with survivors and accessing services is that fear of being judged and that fear of being viewed as 'Well, because you did this, this is the outcome,'" she explained.

Utah has many resources but Cambell said she would like to see more funding for programs focused on educating youth.

Domestic violence resources

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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