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Laura’s House to host 3rd Annual Candlelight Vigil for Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Posted on January 16, 2013

On Friday, Feb. 1, more than 150 people are expected to gather in Lake Forest to honor victims of teen dating abuse and learn more about prevention and education efforts that are currently underway by Laura’s House and its community partners

LADERA RANCH, Calif., Jan. 14, 2013 – Across the United States, February is recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. To bring local focus to this national event, and demonstrate the impact that teen dating abuse has on our community, Laura’s House, will host its Annual Candlelight Vigil in honor of all teens whose lives have been taken as a result of teen dating abuse. The event will take place on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Laura’s House Resale Store, located at 23635 El Toro Road, Suite F in Lake Forest.

Now in its third year, the Annual Candlelight Vigil will honor Jacque Villagomez, a graduate of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, who died at the hands of her abuser in September 2008. “When she was killed by her boyfriend, Jacque was only 19 years old,” said Marissa Presley, Bilingual Prevention Education Specialist, Laura’s House. “Unfortunately, Jacque’s story is not unique. Each and every day thousands of teens across the country are dealing with dating abuse. Recent studies have found that one in four high school students report being in a physically abusive relationship. Furthermore, nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.”

The Candlelight Vigil is part of the Laura’s House Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships for Teens (H.E.A.R.T.) program. This year, more than 150 attendees are expected to gather for an evening of art, music and tributes remembering Villagomez and all victims of teen dating abuse. Guest speakers will include Deputy Rebecca Reger from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and Claudia Bremser from Verizon Wireless, who will speak about the importance of educating teens on dating abuse, and how their respective organizations are supporting Laura’s House in this effort. Several survivors of teen dating abuse will also share their testimony.

For the first time this year, the event will also debut a music video, “Didn’t Mean It,” a song written and performed by teen recording artist, Jasmine Villegas, after she experienced teen dating abuse. Jasmine’s fan base currently includes more than 1.5 million Twitter followers and over 75 million views of her YouTube videos. She is the 8th most powerful artist on Twitter, ranks as the 6th most powerful woman on Twitter, and has the 6th most powerful Twitter account in Los Angeles. Last year, she opened for Justin Bieber’s “My World” Tour, performing in more than 40 cities, and became the new face of Sephora/tokidoki Beauty for 2012.

During the event, Laura’s House will encourage survivors of teen dating abuse to light a communal candle and will provide the opportunity for attendees to “take a stand” against dating abuse, by signing dating abuse “pledge cards.” Beginning in January, these pledge cards are also being distributed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as part of the “Is Your Teen At Risk” program.

“We are grateful to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Verizon Wireless for partnering with Laura’s House in the education and prevention of teen dating violence here in our community, and excited to have them as part of our program this year,” continued Presley. “We would also like to thank the City of Lake Forest, for permitting us to hold the vigil at the Laura’s House Resale Store.”

The Annual Candlelight Vigil will also feature an installation of artwork called “Take a Walk in My Shoes.” As part of this project, Laura’s House clients and survivors of domestic violence created pieces of artwork using shoes to express their feelings about surviving domestic violence, and help others understand how it feels to “walk in their shoes.” This moving display is modeled after similar projects that have been put on display by domestic violence and sexual assault awareness organizations across the United States.

The public is encouraged to attend the Candlelight Vigil, particularly families with teens and pre-teens, who are interested in learning more about how to prevent dating violence. Members of several H.E.A.R.T. clubs that have been established at local high schools will be selling purple ribbons and hosting bake sales to raise funds to support the Laura’s House H.E.A.R.T. program. Laura’s House will also have information and resources available for teens and their families that are interested in learning more about dating abuse and the H.E.A.R.T. program.

Annually, Laura’s House provides the H.E.A.R.T. program to more than 3,000 Orange County teens at local 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.

Recently, Laura’s House launched a new teen Website with funding from a Verizon Wireless HopeLine® grant. The colorful and dynamic teen Website, which can be viewed at, 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


More information on the programs and services offered by Laura’s House is available at 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.

About Laura’s House

Over the past eighteen years, Laura’s House has provided shelter and support services to nearly 3,500 battered women and children, and counseling, life skills education and legal assistance to over 40,000 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. More information on the programs and services offered by Laura’s House is available at

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