On Tuesday May 15, 2012, Benson High School Student Melanie Koontz passed away from a domestic violence case. Each year since Koontz death the Benson High School JROTC program does a walk in her honor about domestic violence.
“Melanie Koontz was killed by her ex-boyfriend,” colonel Michael DeBolt said. “They had dated for about a year before Melanie lost her life, there was no logical explanation for this to have happened, but it was important to raise awareness to teen dating violence.”
DeBolt started the walk was started in the Fall of 2013 after the death of Koontz.
The walk also has helped some students here in Benson High School bring light to their own experiences with domestic violence. The following students have come out and wanted to share their stories.
Warning, some of their experiences could be disturbing to readers.
For one senior, the abuse started in freshman year.
“I started dating someone my freshman year and he would always hit me and insult me,” senior Heather Cleaver said.
“I didn’t know that I was in a abusive relationship till I started noticing the signs after we had the domestic violence walk,” Cleaver said. “I finally got out of the relationship in September of my sophomore year after he had raped me.”
The walk has helped many students realize what type of situation that they are in.
“The walk aims to raise awareness about the signs of domestic violence, the impacts it can have on a community and the resources available to victims can help them in a big way,” DeBolt said.
Many people have a difficult time recognizing the signs, making it difficult for them to realize that they are in a dangerous situation.
“My ex-boyfriend who I dated for over a year would emotionally and verbally abuse me,” senior Marissa Montalvo said. “I recognized the signs, but I didn’t take action until my friends and family got it through my head.”
Many mixed feelings can occur in the victims mind while they are in the situation.
“I felt depressed and anxious through that whole year,” Montalvo said.
Victims who have been through domestic violence also have advice for people who could end up in a similar situation.
“If you recognize the signs, get out of that relationship as soon as possible,” Montalvo said. “Believe me, you will be much happier once it’s all said and done.”
Informing people about domestic violence could be hard.
“I just want people to be aware of domestic violence that we have, not only in our city, but everywhere,” director of Womens Care for Advancement Elizabeth Powers said. “These things can be very difficult, so we want to make sure that everyone knows we’re here to support and that no one’s alone in that type of situation.”
Resources are available for everybody.
“If you speak out and reach out enough, resources will be available,” Powers said.
Many victims fear coming forward because they do not want to expose themselves and they fear that they will be in more danger if their abuser discovers that they have gotten help.
“It’s important to speak out and ask, and seek out resources, if possible,” DeBolt said. “The SRO, school counselors, school social workers and police special victim’s unit advocates are available to assist victims during the week and on weekends.”
There is always someone who can help.
“We need to end the cycle of domestic violence,” DeBolt said.
Taking part in the walk can teach many participants about domestic violence. Some can learn how to identify the signs, while others can learn that they are in an abusive relationship.
“Each year we raise awareness and we’ve saved a lot of lives,” DeBolt said. “There’s a lot of victims that have escaped.”
Some bystanders who have recognized the signs will keep to themselves in fear of offending the individuals in the relationship.
“Don’t have that mentality that says, ‘this isn’t my business, I’m going to mind my business,” DeBolt said. “End the silence, stop the violence.’”
It doesn’t have to even have to be a friend or family member, it could also be a random stranger that seems like they need help. When noticing signs of domestic violence taking it seriously and acting immediately should be the first step.
It could end up saving someone’s life.