Here’s what KTAR News learned about the perils of Arizona teen dating

Feb 29, 2020, 4:05 AM
Kaity Sudberry was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in January 2008. She was 17 years old. (Phot...
Kaity Sudberry was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in January 2008. She was 17 years old. (Photo courtesy of Kaity’s Way)
(Photo courtesy of Kaity’s Way)

PHOENIX — Teen dating across Arizona is sometimes a perilous activity.

The stories of how lives, relationships and mindsets of those involved have changed because of teen dating won’t soon be forgotten.

In an effort to fully understand the scene, KTAR News 92.3 FM reporter Griselda Zetino interviewed teens, parents, medical professionals and lawmakers about the causes and effects of abusive and sometimes deadly relationships.

Here are the highlights from the four-day series.

Many teens are in abusive relationships but few speak up

In the first part of the series, startling numbers about teens involved in abusive relationships were revealed.

More than a third of teens report being in an abusive relationship but only a few ever tell anyone about it.

The American Psychological Association found that 41% of girls and 37% of boys between 14 and 20 years old report experiencing physical, sexual or emotional abuse in a relationship.

“When someone is in a relationship that is abusive, coercive or manipulative, their behavior might change in ways that you’re not accustomed to,” said Shelly Ward, victim services administrator for the Mesa Police Department.

Valley teen opens up about her abusive relationship

In part two, Valley teen Abby Parker opened up about her abusive relationship.

For  Parker, the abuse started almost immediately after she began dating a 17-year-old boy. She was 14 at the time.

“There were a lot of red flags that now I notice,” she said. “He would call me all these names. It would not stop. If he was angry, he’d just let it all out.”

Progressively, things got worse.

He’d get mad if she didn’t answer his calls or text messages or even if she was with her friends and family.

He’d also make up stories.

Abby changed her phone number and social media accounts. But he still managed to find her.

It’s now been nearly five years since they met, and Abby said he continues to harass her despite the protective orders that she has had to renew against him every year.

Phoenix mom fights for victims after daughter killed

In the third part of the series, we learn about Kaity Sudberry.

Sudberry was 17 when she and her parents went to court to ask for protection. She had broken up with her boyfriend, and he had threatened to kill her.

They tried to get an order of protection but she didn’t qualify for one under the law at the time. So they got an injunction against harassment instead. It barred her ex-boyfriend from contacting her.

But five days after they had gone to court, the unthinkable happened.

“He took our daughter’s life and then his own,” said Bobbi Sudberry, Kaity’s mother.

Kaity died outside her Phoenix home on Jan. 28, 2008.

Several months later, a bill named after her passed in the Arizona State Legislature to extend domestic violence protections to those in dating relationships.

Valley teens discuss effects of abuse, how to help

In the final part of the series, Valley teens and professionals describe the effects of abuse and what can be done to help.

Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are just a few of the many potential effects teens in abusive relationships face.

Parker, 18, knows exactly what that’s like.

“It’s still there. It’s still a trauma,” she said.

Lauren Reed, a social work professor at Arizona State University, said these are all common consequences of an abusive relationship.

“Teens who experience dating violence are also at risk to experience more abuse across their lifespan in other relationships,” she said.

If you’re a teen in an abusive relationship or know one who is, you can call or text bloom365 at 888-606-HOPE (4673) or Teen Lifeline at 602-248-TEEN (8336). You can also call the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline at 866-331-9474.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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Here’s what KTAR News learned about the perils of Arizona teen dating