Two California teens experienced domestic violence. One died, but the other lived to make sure schools are better equipped to deal with young victims.
"I have been hit. I have been bit," Morgan Berschauer says. Don't let her good looks and beauty queen status fool you into thinking her life is perfect. Just two years ago, Ms. Laguna Hills Teen 2012 was in an abusive relationship and she says no one at school would help. "They said, 'We can't help you. We didn't see it so we can't do anything,'" she says.
At least the now 18-year-old high school senior lived to tell about it.
Inspired by the case of Cindi Santana, who police say was stabbed to death at school by her enraged ex- boyfriend last year in South Gate, a small city in Los Angeles County, Berschauer and other students are teaming up with Assemblyman Ricardo Lara to reduce dating abuse in California's middle and high schools.
"Many students witnessed the attack. When Cindi died, students were heartbroken to have lost a peer and a friend," South East High School student Liz Gomez said.
Lara's bill would require schools to establish a dating abuse policy in their safety plans and ensure that resources are available to help students. The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence says 1-in-4 adolescents report verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse from their dating partner each year. Such violence could lead to things like with depression, poor academic achievement, and eating disorders.
"Know that we're not going to let this issue go. We're not going to let this issue be taken lightly in Sacramento," Lara says. Berschauer hopes other lawmakers will join the effort. "It will make a huge difference in our community, in our schools. I hope all students will be able to feel safe when they go to school," she says.
Since the proposal has just been introduced, there's no formal opposition yet, but Oregon already has a similar bill on their governor's desk.