Wednesday, October 8, 2008
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) -- Ann Burke saw signs of trouble with her daughter's boyfriend.
He'd incessantly call her at night, keep her from her family, and, ultimately, physically abuse her during a tumultuous relationship that ended with her death three years ago.
Burke's 23-year-old daughter, Lindsay, may not have understood the dynamics of an abusive relationship, but her death is helping to ensure that other young people do.
A new law in Rhode Island called the Lindsay Ann Burke Act requires all public middle and high schools to teach students about dating violence in their health classes.
The initiative was spearheaded by Burke and her husband, Chris, who say schools should be obligated to teach teens the warning signs of abusive relationships and broach the subject head-on so victims feel empowered to get help and leave violent partners.
"If this could happen to her, this could happen to anyone," said Ann Burke, a health teacher who runs a memorial fund to raise money for dating violence workshops for parents and educators.
One other state, Texas, mandates unspecified awareness education on dating violence for students and parents, while several other states encourage it. But the Rhode Island measure goes further by requiring the topic be incorporated annually into the curriculum for students in seventh through 12th grade.
Burke says such education would have allowed her daughter to recognize the danger in her relationship earlier. Though her daughter left her boyfriend several times, she didn't change her phone number or have a plan for safely cutting off contact for good.
She also believed she could be friends with her boyfriend if the romance ended.
"I said, `No, he said that to you before, Lindsay. You can't just be friends,'" Burke recalled.
Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who shepherded the proposal through the legislature last year, said domestic violence is a disturbingly common crime, yet education about it is scarce and haphazard.
"You teach sex ed, you teach `don't do drugs,' you teach `don't drink,' you should also be teaching `don't be a victim of domestic violence,'" said Lynch, whose office receives about 5,000 cases a year. [Mark Godsey]