In the play, popular high school senior Lukas dominates ninth-grader Katie by cutting her off from friends, telling her what to wear and eat, threatening to distribute an indiscrete photo, and finally physically abusing her. Unfortunately, both Katie’s friends and mother fail to see the relationship’s warning signs (list below). This is the biggest problem in teen dating abuse—that the people closest to the victim fail to see what’s going on, says Pomerantz.
“If you take away one thing from the assembly,” she told the audience, “I hope that it is whether it is you or a friend involved in an unhealthy relationship, you should get help from a trusted adult, such as a dean, a school psychologist, or a Youth Outreach Worker.”
Following the presentation, the ten actors stayed in character, permitting ninth graders to ask why they did not intervene (“It's really none of my business”), why Katie’s mother did nothing (“Lukas seems like such a polite young man”), how Lukas could justify his conduct (“I know what's best for Katie”), and why Katie tolerated the abuse (“Lukas loves me and I love him, and he knows what is best for me”).
The actors then introduced themselves, condemned the dating behavior and indifference portrayed, and pointed out there are resources available for friends and abuse victims to call on, inside and outside school.
Seniors Justine Gelfman (Katie), Lorna Begg (Maria, Katie's best friend), and Clint Freehill (Lukas) have been members of the ensemble cast for the Dating Violence skit for three years as part of their High School Drama Club experience. "Our goal was to relay the message that abuse not only happens, but also takes many different forms, whether that be emotional, physical, psychological, or financial,” said Lorna Begg, who played Katie's best friend. “We hope that students are now more aware of the signs of an unhealthy relationship, and can take the proper steps to end these types of abuse." Gelfman emphasized that “Scarsdale is not isolated from this type of behavior and I hope after seeing the skit, my fellow students are equipped with the necessary tools to face any challenges they encounter.” Freehill, who had the unenviable task of portraying the abuser Lukas, said, “Doing my part in the fight against teen dating violence was an honor and a privilege that I hold close to my heart."
The program, which was presented during National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, continued with ninth graders participating in classroom discussions on the topic. The Scarsdale Coalition on Family Violence helped develop the event, which was also given as part of the Scarsdale High School PTA's November 8, 2011, meeting and can be viewed here.
Ten Warning Signs of Abuse
While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten of the most common:
1. Checking your cell phone or email without permission
2. Constant put-downs
3. Extreme jealousy or insecurity
4. Explosive temper
5. Financial control
6. Isolating you from family or friends
7. Mood swings
8. Physically hurting you in any way
10. Telling you what to do