It was standing room only on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Center in Tustin as hundreds of teens, their parents and Laura’s House supporters gathered to honor Jacque Villagomez and all victims of teen dating abuse
LADERA RANCH, Calif., Feb. 21, 2014 – On Friday, Feb. 7, Laura’s House welcomed more than 400 attendees for the for its 4th Annual Candlelight Vigil – “Teens Together to End Dating Violence.” Held this year at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Center in Tustin, the event honored Jacque Villagomez, a graduate of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, who died at the hands of her abuser in September 2008, and all those whose lives have been cut short as a result of teen dating abuse.
Click to Tweet: More than 400 attendees joined @Lauras_House for #TeensTogethertoEndDV on Friday, Feb. 7! #teenDVmonth #TDVAM
“Jacque would be so proud if she could see the group gathered here tonight,” said Marissa Presley, Bilingual Prevention and Education Specialist for Laura’s House. “The more people that we can bring together to talk about this important issue, the greater the chances are that we will reduce the instance of dating abuse, which affects one in four high school students today. Furthermore, through the prevention and education programs offered by Laura’s House, we are working each and every day to develop strategies that teens and their parents can use to prevent what happened to Jacque and too many other teens from across the country, from happening in their schools and communities.”
The 4th Annual Candlelight Vigil for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month opened with a flag salute from Girl Scout Troop #2411, which was followed by remarks from Laura’s House CEO and Executive Director, Margaret Bayston, and Wayne Pinnell, Chair of the Laura’s House Board of Directors. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (C-46) then spoke to the crowd gathered for the event, sharing a few words on the importance of educating young adults and teens on dating violence, and presenting Laura’s House with a Certificate of Recognition for its efforts to stem the tide of dating abuse here in Southern California.
Dr. Jill Murray, a nationally-recognized expert on dating abuse and author of But He Never Hit Me: The Devastating Cost of Non-Physical Abuse to Girls and Women (iUniverse, 2007) and But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships (Harper Perennial, 2001), then spoke about her work surrounding dating abuse, and current trends within society that are perpetuating relationship violence.
During the Candlelight Vigil, Laura’s House also recognized Girl Scouts of Orange County with an Award of Recognition for their efforts to shine a light on teen dating abuse. Accepting the award on behalf of Girl Scouts of Orange County was Mickie Allen, Program Director. Rachel Goldman, Program Specialist for Girl Scouts of Orange County was also in attendance. And, for the first time this year, Laura’s House presented “Teachers Together to End Dating Abuse” award. The award was given to Sharon Spiers, Health Education Teacher and San Juan Hills High School’s 2012 “Teacher of the Year.” Since 2008, Ms. Spiers has invited Laura’s House to San Juan Hills High School to present its Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships (H.E.A.R.T.) program to its students.
Following the awards presentations, Kayla, a survivor of adolescent dating abuse shared how her experiences in an abusive relationship during middle school and high school have prompted her to become an advocate and spokesperson against dating abuse, helping other teens realize that they are not alone, and building awareness for the programs and services that Laura’s House offers to teens through its H.E.A.R.T. program. The event concluded with Sammi Santana singing her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “You Are Beautiful,” and dedicating the song to Jacque Villagomez.
Before and after the 4th Annual Candlelight Vigil, attendees were given the opportunity to “take a stand” against dating abuse, by signing dating abuse “pledge cards.” In January 2013, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department began distributing these cards as part of the “Is Your Teen At Risk” program. Local survivors of teen dating abuse, including former Miss Teen Laguna Hills Morgan Berschauer, and Laura’s House volunteer Aurora Hernandez were also on-hand to talk with teens about their experiences and share advice on coping with dating abuse. Additionally, members of several H.E.A.R.T. clubs from several local high schools sold purple ribbons and hosted bake sales at the event to raise funds to support the Laura’s House H.E.A.R.T. program.
“We are grateful to Rancho Santiago Community College and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for partnering with Laura’s House in the education and prevention of teen dating violence here in our community,” continued Presley. “And, we would like to especially thank the college, for permitting us to host this year’s vigil at the Regional Training Center.”
Annually, Laura’s House provides the H.E.A.R.T. program to more than 3,000 Orange County teens at local middle schools, high schools, junior colleges and other youth facilities. The program helps teens become educated on healthy relationships and appropriate conflict resolution skills. Laura’s House also has a website designed to assist teens who are seeking information on healthy relationships.
The Laura’s House Teen Website, which was made possible by funding from a Verizon Wireless HopeLine® grant, can be viewed at www.laurashouse.org/lhteen. The colorful and dynamic site offers a number of interactive features designed to reach today’s tech-savvy teen populations. These features include digital postcards that address dating abuse and provide tips and encouragement to teens that find themselves in an abusive relationship; online pledge cards that enable teens to take a “virtual” stand against dating abuse; a quiz feature that lets teens assess whether they are being abused by their dating partner, or if they are the abuser; music, news and current events; podcasts, and other informative resources that can help teens become educated about dating abuse.
Schools and organizations that are interested in learning more about the H.E.A.R.T. program, or would like to schedule a presentation should contact Marissa Presley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the programs and services offered by Laura’s House is available at www.laurashouse.org or by calling the Counseling and Resource Center at (949) 361-3775. Victims of domestic abuse can get immediate help by calling the Laura’s House 24-hour hotline at 949-498-1511 or toll-free at 866-498-1511.
Connect with Laura’s House on social media to learn more about programs, services, upcoming events and more. You can reach us at:
About Laura’s House
Since 1994, Laura’s House has provided residential shelter and support services to nearly 4,000 families, and counseling, life skills education and legal assistance to over 50,000 individuals. The mission of Laura’s House is to change the social beliefs, attitudes and the behaviors that perpetuate domestic violence while creating a safe space in which to empower individuals and families affected by abuse.
# # #