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Hundreds Gather for Annual Candlelight Vigil to Memorialize Lives Lost

Posted on February 11, 2015

Hundreds Gather for Annual Candlelight Vigil to Memorialize Lives Lost

TUSTIN, Calif., Feb. 11, 2015 – The statistics say it all – and they’re not only staggering, but climbing.  One out of every three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse at the hands of a dating partner. Laura’s House, a nonprofit devoted to ending the cycle of domestic violence for everyone, including teens, held its fifth annual Teen Vigil on Feb. 6 at the OC Sheriff Regional Training Academy in Tustin to help kick off National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The Vigil honors teens killed by their abusers and all those affected by teen dating abuse.

AP Guerrero was only 18 when he suffered verbal, emotional, physiological and financial abuse inflicted by his girlfriend. She monitored and criticized him incessantly. She played cruel mind games. She willfully and maliciously tricked him. Fortunately, after months of psychological abuse, he was able to flee his abusive relationship. But, as many others still find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse, Guerrero shared his story alongside his mother, teen survivors and nearly 650 event supporters to celebrate survivors of teen dating violence – and remember those who lost their lives.

The Vigil opened with remarks from Margaret Bayston, executive director of Laura’s House and Marissa C. Presley, the organization’s prevention and education specialist who unveiled new service components to the nonprofit’s H.E.A.R.T. (Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships for Teens) program. The new elements, which advance the nonprofit’s commitment to preventing teen dating violence across the nation, include:

  • Heart Chat: provides support to those currently in abuse relationships by connecting them to experienced domestic violence advocates who can answer questions, provide safety planning tips, and connect tens with a professional therapist, if necessary.
  • Heart Health Line: provides teens with convenient counseling and education services through a live video stream or by phone. Teens can email heartchat@laurashouse.org for information.

“It is remarkable to see how much our Candlelight Vigil has grown over the years,” said Presley. “Our goal is to encourage continued conversations year-round between families and the community because prevention and education are keys to healthy teen relationships.”

Event speakers included:

  • Laura’s House Board Member Dr. Jill Murray, a nationally recognized expert, sought-after speaker, and best-selling author on teen dating abuse. Murray spoke about her dedication to ending the cycle of violence, and commended the nonprofit for its pioneering work to prevent, and end, teen dating abuse.
  • Orange County Deputy Sheriff Rebecca Reger, who discussed the importance of educating teens on dating violence and shared a success story from the nonprofit’s collaboration with the Sheriff Department’s Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership (GRIP).

During the Candlelight Vigil, Laura’s House presented Wet Seal with a Corporate Supporter Award for its efforts to raise awareness about teen dating abuse and elevate the nonprofit’s brand nationwide by raising more than $15,000 for Laura’s House. Lisa Gaspar from San Clemente High School was honored with a “Teachers Together to End Dating Abuse” award for her vital role in educating youth, and helping connect them to the emergency hotline for resources and help.

The event concluded with teens declaring their survivorship and all attendees lighting candles to memorialize Jacque Villagomez, a teen who lost her life to dating violence in 2008 and serves as the inspiration behind the event.

Event attendees were encouraged to “take a stand” against dating abuse by taking the pledge to be advocates for Laura’s House. The nonprofit also launched a campaign to collect donations to support its H.E.A.R.T. program. To help the nonprofit exceed its $5,000 fundraising goal, visit http://laurashouse-1844.wedid.it/ throughout February. For information about Laura’s House and its teen prevention program, visit http://www.laurashouse.org/lhteen/.

About Laura’s House 

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 to empower individuals and families affected by abuse.

For more than 20 years, Laura’s House has served those whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. Over the past two decades, Laura’s House has provided shelter and support services to more than 4,000 battered women and children and counseling, life skills education and legal assistance to nearly 50,000 people. Connect with Laura’s House on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

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Laura's House to Observe National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month with Host of Important Initiatives

Posted on January 6, 2015

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence organization to host February teen vigil event, unveil major program aimed at reducing teen dating violence

LADERA RANCH, Calif., Jan. 06, 2015Laura’s House, a nonprofit devoted to ending the cycle of domestic violence, will observe National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month  with its annual Candlelight Vigil on Friday, Feb. 6, at 5:30 p.m. Hundreds are expected at the OC Sheriff Regional Training Academy in Tustin to honor teens who died at the hands of their abusers. The event also will include an emotional program with survivor testimonials and information about the nonprofit’s H.E.A.R.T. (Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships for Teens) program, including new service components to end teen dating violence in Orange County and across the nation.

“Teen dating violence is extremely common but rarely discussed, so our Candlelight Vigil, while recognizing a tragic event, also gives us the opportunity to speak to the community, especially teens, about an important issue and educate them on red flags that often are overlooked,” said Marissa C. Presley, prevention education specialist for Laura’s House. “In fact, educating teens about dating violence is the first step in preventing domestic violence cases in adults and should be taught at all schools.”

In addition to February’s Candlelight Vigil, Laura’s House will launch two new aspects of its H.E.A.R.T. program. Heart Chat is an online service that provides teens with easy-to-access information, resources and referrals in an effort to encourage healthy relationships. The service will offer support to those currently in abusive relationships and will connect them to experienced domestic violence advocates who can answer questions and provide advice. Advocates also will offer safety planning tips and connect Heart Chat users with a professional therapist, as necessary.

Laura’s House also will add a new element called Heart Health Line to provide teens with convenient counseling and education services through a live video stream or by phone. A major challenge Laura’s House has faced in its crusade against teen dating violence has been an inability to easily connect with teens that need help, but lack access to a counseling center. The launch of Heart Health will allow teens to get the support they need — anytime, anywhere.  

“It can be difficult to communicate with teens about dating violence in an easy, confidential and safe setting,” said Presley. “We have improved our H.E.A.R.T. program to add new ways to educate teens on what healthy relationships look like so they are aware of red flags.”

The Candlelight Vigil is free and open to the general public. For more information visit: http://www.laurashouse.org/lhteen/.

About Laura’s House 

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 to empower individuals and families affected by abuse.

For more than 20 years, Laura’s House has served those whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. Over the past two decades, Laura’s House has provided shelter and support services to more than 4,000 battered women and children and counseling, life skills education and legal assistance to over 45,000 people. Connect with Laura’s House on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

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Year End Appeal – 2015

Posted on December 2, 2014

Laura’s House wishes you and your family Joy, Peace and Hope this holiday season.

As this year comes to a close, it is only the beginning for many of the families we serve, starting anew on a path of healing and a journey of independence and growth, learning how to break the cycle of violence once and for all and gaining the tools to form happy and healthy relationships.

We hope that you will consider contributing to Laura’s House this year end, giving families' we serve the ability to overcome the violence present in their lives and the ability to become Joyful, Peaceful and Hopeful all year long.

Over 250,000 individuals in Orange County are affected by domestic violence. Help us to continue to expand our programs and services to meet this overwhelming need - right here in our own backyard.

Please take a moment to read Marie's Story - A Message from one of our recent graduates, who would like to share with you her experience, just one short year ago.

On December 13, I walked downstairs after putting the children to bed and he was standing on the opposite side of the kitchen counter. I bent down to pick up a pair of shoes and as I stood up I heard the familiar sound of the knife as it flipped open. I jumped as I saw that he was holding the knife at my eye level. When I jumped he grinned an evil grin. At that moment I knew that if I did not leave something terrible was going to happen. The next morning after dropping the children off at school, I called our children’s doctor, whom I trust and she gave me the number for Laura’s House and said that for our safety we should leave immediately. After a very emotional intake call with the amazing staff at Laura’s house, I was told that I was accepted into their program. Making the decision to leave everyone and everything familiar behind to go into a shelter is like jumping off a cliff. No one in her right mind would do it unless what is behind you is more terrifying that what lies ahead. I had the sense that if Laura’s House didn’t catch me, I would surely fall to my death. Let me tell you for a moment just how Laura’s House “caught us” from that cliff dive. From the intake call on Dec. 14 until ten months later when I moved out of the transitional shelter into my own apartment, my experience with Laura’s House was life changing. Emergency shelter:
  • Immediate safety and security
  • Help with the legal processes
  • Emotional and therapeutic support
  • Education about domestic abuse
  • Personal empowerment through individual and group therapy sessions
  • Assistance getting any and every resource that we needed such as financial assistance, schooling for the children, immediate medical and dental care
Transitional shelter:
  • Daily support from my case manager
  • Help and guidance for the future
  • Practical workshops on anything from managing finances to car maintenance
  • Continued therapy for my children and myself
  • Time to heal emotionally and get on my feet in every way
  • Guidance in getting set up in my own apartment
Finally, there was the step into independence. I exhausted all the money that I had saved to get into my new apartment. Laura’s House brought a truck on my move in day and provided me with every, last thing to set up a home. It didn’t stop there! At Christmas time, Laura’s House delivered a Christmas tree, decorations and presents for the children and for me. Coming to Laura’s House was the first time I had received presents on Christmas since the first year of my marriage, 10 years prior. Once again, Laura’s House had made me feel like I was valuable and important. For the better part of a year, Laura’s House masterfully carried me through the process of beginning life again and completely equipped me for the journey ahead. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about my life today. I’m an ESL teacher at a local language college. I have three classes to go in order to complete my master’s degree in special education, and I’m training to run my first mini-marathon next year. Laura’s House brought me to a place of brokenness and utter subservience to and dependence on an abusive man, to a woman who is free from oppression. I am forever grateful for the investment that Laura’s House made in my life and the lives of my precious children. I believe that investment will reap dividends in our lives for generations to come. -       2014 Laura’s House Graduate & Alumni

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