Event stresses healthy relationships for teens

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — Surrounded by extended family, Ann Marie Doolittle of Colorado shared the story of her daughter, Ashley Doolittle, who was murdered in 2016.

Ann Marie’s parents, Jerry and Charlotte Hopf, grew up in Dubois County before moving to Kentucky and Colorado, then back to Kentucky. Ann Marie lives in Berthoud, Colorado, where she raised her children.

In 2016, right after Ashley graduated high school, her ex-boyfriend murdered her after their breakup.

In 2017, Ann Marie founded the Ashley Doolittle Foundation in Ashley’s honor to educate teens and parents about teen dating violence. Now, Ann Marie travels Colorado giving presentations.

Friday night, while she was in Dubois County for the holidays, Ann Marie gave her first presentation in Indiana at the Dubois County Community Foundation in Jasper. It was attended by about 25 people, half of which were Ann Marie’s family.

During her presentation, which Crisis Connection hosted, Ann Marie talked about the six kinds of dating violence: physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, financial, digital and stalking. She shared several signs of abuse, which can be found on the foundation’s website, ashleydoolittlefoundation.org, and statistics about teen dating violence. For example, 81 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue, and three out of four parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence.

“A few years ago, I was that parent,” Ann Marie said.

She stressed the need for parents and adults to teach kids, especially teenagers about healthy relationships and to spot the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. For some in the audience, learning about the warning signs was the most valuable part of Ann Marie’s presentation.

“One of the things (Ann Marie) said was once you break up, don’t be alone with the person,” said Nicole Mullis of Bretzville. “I thought that was a really good message.”

Mullis heard Ashley’s story through Facebook, so when she heard Ann Marie would be speaking, she decided to come to learn more. Her daughter, Forest Park Junior-Senior High School senior Megan Mullis, came as well.

Crisis Connection, a local nonprofit focused on preventing and responding to sexual and domestic violence, currently works with local schools to teach about healthy relationships.

This year, Crisis Connection staff began offering One Love’s escalation workshop to local high school students. The workshop includes a video that follows an unhealthy relationship from the beginning to the tragic end. After the video, facilitators lead a discussion about the video.

So far, Crisis Connection has hosted the workshop at Northeast Dubois High School. Ann Marie encouraged other schools to hold the workshop for their students.

“We need to be teaching our kids what’s a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship,” Ann Marie said. “The message for youth would be don’t mistake abuse for caring and love.” 




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