ACCORDING TO KAITY’S WAY: A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP IS A RELATIONSHIP WHERE AT LEAST ONE OF THE INDIVIDUALS WITHIN A RELATIONSHIP CHOOSES TO EMOTIONALLY, VERBALLY OR PHYSICALLY CAUSE HARM TO THE OTHER INDIVIDUAL IN THAT RELATIONSHIP.
Bobbi Sudberry did everything right as a mom. She taught her children about integrity, self-respect, compassion and love. She raised good kids. So when daughter Kaity started dating a boy from high school, Bobbi felt like her daughter had the necessary skills to navigate young love. Unfortunately, nothing had prepared Bobbi or Kaity for what was about to happen over the course of a year.
Kaity, who was 16 at the time, had been friends with the young man for several months before they started dating. They attended the same high school, they had mutual friends… so when the couple officially started going out, Bobbi and her husband did what all parents do — they invited him over and got to know him.
“We asked him questions,” she says. “He seemed forthcoming, we watched his mannerisms around her… He treated her very nice, like she was his little queen. It was about six months into the relationship when he flipped the script on her.”
Kaity’s boyfriend became obsessive. It wasn’t enough that he saw her at school, he wanted to know where she was all the time; he wanted to be with her all the time. “The thing about that, especially with young people who are so inexperienced when it comes to relationships, is that they mistake that for love instead of what it really is: power and control,” says Bobbi. “We eventually saw that happening and my husband and I encouraged her to end the relationship.”
Bobbi and her husband talked to Kaity about his behavior, that it wasn’t normal and it wasn’t right. Then, things began to escalate. He became verbally abusive. He tried to isolate her from her friends and family, and finally he would humiliate her.
“He would call the house and say nasty things about her,” says Bobbi. “Sometimes, he would snatch her phone and send texts to me… I knew that wasn’t my daughter texting me. I knew she wouldn’t act like that… as a parent, you don’t know what to do.”
Finally, Kaity, with the support of her family, ended the relationship. “It was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulder,” explains Bobbi. Unfortunately, what Kaity’s family later learned was that once you leave a violent relationship, your life is literally on the line. Now, the abuser no longer has power or control, so they become even more out of control.
Kaity’s ex started stalking her. Though she continued to ignore him, there was nothing the family could do to stop him. Things reached a boiling point when he assaulted her at school. Police were called and he was suspended for five days.
“I kid you not, he gets back to school after the five days and he assaults her again that same day,” says Bobbi. The police are once again called and the young man is expelled from school, but he’s not arrested.
The nightmare only gets worse when the following day, Bobbi receives a phone call from a police officer telling her that the young man had threatened to kill himself and Kaity. He advised her to get an order of protection.
In 2008, the law was written in such a way that prevented Kaity from obtaining a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend… it was only available for couples who were married, formerly married, or living together — there was no language in the law about couples who were romantically dating.
“Law enforcement didn’t help us… the court system didn’t help us… what do you do to protect your child and stay within the legal limits? That was a major frustration, because you want to do something illegal.”
On the morning of January 28, 2008, Kaity decided to go back to school after missing several days because of the threat. She wanted to graduate on time, and with her friends. She had been accepted to Northern Arizona University and Kaity just wanted to be normal, to live a normal life.
“We talked about her plan for getting to and from school and Kaity said she had a ride to school and home. I said, ‘sounds like you’ve got your day in order. You’ve got a good plan and that’s good.’ I said, ‘You have a great day and I love you.’ And she said, ‘I love you.’ It was the last thing I ever heard her say.”
Kaity’s ride home fell through, so she decided to walk. Just a few feet from her house, her ex-boyfriend ambushed her. After a brief altercation, they ended up at the next door neighbors house where he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and killed her, then killed himself.
Bobbi was at work when her youngest daughter called her to tell her that there were several police cars outside. Her heart sank. She called Kaity’s phone. No answer. Bobbi didn’t want to go home because deep down, she knew something was terribly wrong. It was around 2:30 p.m. when police finally notified Bobbi and her husband that their daughter had been killed. “The worst thing you’ll ever hear in your life is a father grieving the loss of his daughter,” she says.
Bobbi could have let the loss of her beloved daughter consume her. Instead she decided to make a difference. When the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and former Senator Jonathan Paton (District 30) asked Bobbi to help with the passing of Kaity’s Law, she saw it as an opportunity to turn her pain to public policy. Kaity’s Law was passed at the end of the 2009 legislative session. Now, individuals in dating relationships (romantic or sexual) have the same protection under the law as those who are married, live with someone, are blood related, have a child in common or are pregnant and can obtain an order of protection.
Below, Bobbi shares some very important tips if you’re dealing with someone who is abusive:
- Come up with a safety plan and implement it. Don’t take this kind of behavior lightly. “We were an average, loving family, and yet this came upon us,” says Bobbi.
- Go to a trusted adult. Talk to them about the situation and have them go with you to end the situation. That way, the abuser knows you have the support of an adult.
- Set up a buddy system. On average, it takes two years for someone to eventually leave you alone. For some people, it’s a couple of weeks. For others, it can take years. Don’t let your guard down.
- Make sure school records are up to date — phone numbers, emergency contacts, etc.
- Let your neighbors know what this person is doing.
- If somebody threatens you, keep reporting it. What you have is the all important paper trail.
- Get a report number every single time… it shows a pattern.
- Collect evidence. Keep any harassing text messages or voicemails.
- Document incidents. Keep a journal of what’s happening.
- Know and remember you are not to blame for this person’s behavior.
You can find more information at http://www.kaitysway.org; National Teen Dating Violence Helpline: 866-331-9474 & TTY 866-331-8453