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After daughter's death, Phoenix mother works to spread awareness of teen dating violence

Posted at 12:49 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 19:26:39-04

PHOENIX, Ariz. — As we near the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one Arizona mother is working to break the cycle on teen dating violence.

A few blocks away from Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, sits a memorial. It's for 17-year-old Kaity Sudberry.

On Jan. 28, 2008, she was walking home from school when police say her ex-boyfriend shot and killed her. He then took his own life.

It's been more than 10 years since Bobbi Sudberry lost her daughter. She says Kaity and her ex-boyfriend were 16 when they met, and things started out great.

But then she says a few months in, he started to get possessive and jealous. A year later, Kaity broke off the relationship.

Sudberry says he harassed Kaity in the days and months leading up to her death.

"One thing that we learned is teen dating violence is extremely prevalent," Sudberry said. "And a lot of adults don't understand or know about it."

Sudberry co-founded Kaity's Way in her daughter's honor. The organization is dedicated to spreading awareness of teen dating violence.

She has shared Kaity's tragic story to nearly 100,000 students across the country over the past decade, highlighting the warning signs in relationships, and what to do about them.

Sudberry says adults often minimize teen dating relationships, and the emotions they are feeling.

"People need to understand these are not issues you can treat lightly," she said. "We have to really take these things seriously, and deal with these children, and work with them -- try to help them."

Here are some of the signs Sudberry tells teens and parents to look out for:

- Controlling or isolating behaviors
- Put downs and verbal abuse
- Wanting their partner to be with them all the time
- Withdrawn and losing interest in hobbies

But when the abuse may not be as obvious, it may be hard to recognize.

"It may stop at emotional and psychological, and never ever get physical," Sudberry said. "But that doesn't mean it's not abusive."

In 2009, Sudberry helped pass a state statute nicknamed 'Kaity's Law.' It expands protection for those in dating relationships that didn't exist before her daughter's death.

Sudberry says that's something they struggled to get for Kaity because she wasn't married, living, or related to her ex-boyfriend, which is what the previous law mandated.

For more information about Kaity's Way and teen dating resources, go here.