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Program targets teen domestic violence

Christina Nelson, Nevada Appeal News Service

They call it the “honeymoon cycle”: boy hits girl, boy feels bad and buys girl flowers, girl goes back to him.

“I love you, and I can’t live without you,” says the dark-haired boy on the TV screen, trying to make up with the girlfriend he pushed down a flight of stairs. “Please don’t break up with me.”

It’s not a soap opera. It’s a video about domestic violence and physical and mental abuse shown at a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office youth program for Kingsbury Middle School students.

Lucy, the abused girlfriend, gets hit, pushed down stairs and beaten up by Zack — and all the while he’s telling her how much he loves her. She believes it and keeps going back.

“Maybe we’re not good for each other, but there’s something between us that’s so strong,” Lucy tells her friend after getting back together with Zack.

Deputies used the video as a springboard to discuss mental and physical abuse, trying to impress upon 15 seventh graders that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, and to explore the causes and signs of domestic violence.

Domestic violence coordinator Connie Richardson asks the class why it’s not Lucy’s fault that Zack hits her.

“Sometime he’s nice, sometime’s he’s mean, but he needs to control his temper. He’s leaving it up to her to make him happy,” said seventh-grader Sirena Mesa.

Richardson said domestic violence, even among high school-age students, is common in Douglas County.

“It is getting worse and worse all the time,” she said. “I get 20 to 30 reports across my desk over the weekend.”

The class is an extension of a school-year program, Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT), which works to prevent drug use and gang activity. The summer component is often a reward for students who worked hard during the school year.

Sheriff’s deputies discuss peer pressure, consequences and decision making skills. Students also do something fun every day during the weeklong session. Students went for a ride on the MS Dixie paddle wheeler and went horseback riding.

“We hope that when they’re done with this, they’re better leaders,” said Chris Griffith, sheriff’s youth services officer.