PHOENIX — Raising awareness about teen dating violence is now one Valley mom's life mission after losing her daughter to an abusive boyfriend more than a decade ago.
It's been 13 years since Bobbi Sudberry lost her daughter Kaity to an abusive relationship, but for this family, it feels like it could have happened yesterday.
“It still affects us tremendously," says Sudberry. "And it’s something you don’t ever get over. You know, you just learn to live with it."
Kaity was 16 years old when she started dating her then-boyfriend. According to Bobbi, Kaity's boyfriend eventually became verbally and physically abusive.
“As time goes by, his behavior escalates, okay, he goes from being verbally abusive to you’re trying to isolate her to, you know, putting her down and a lot of cyber...digital abuse going on.”
Recognizing the signs, Sudberry tried to take out a restraining order against Kaity's boyfriend but was only able to get an injunction against harassment.
“There were a lot of gaps and a lot of misses.”
Just five days later, something out of a nightmare happened.
As Kaity was walking home from school, her boyfriend approached her, shooting and killing her before taking his own life.
“From that day forward, our lives have never been the same, nor will they ever be the same.”
Feeling powerless but determined, Sudberry summoned the strength to channel her grief. Nine months after Kaity's death, she created Kaity's Way, a non-profit dedicated to teaching teens and young adults how to form healthy relationships.
“We really wanted to bring that to the community and help the community understand you’re not alone. Victims are not to blame. And there is a lot of people out there that want to help you.”
Kaity's Way has partnered with New Life Center in Phoenix to bring resources to teens who may be struggling in their own abusive relationships.
“Our relationship with Kaity’s Way is so important because when we look at the issue of intimate partner violence, whether it is teen violence or adult violence, the starting point, and the need for prevention is so important for us," explains Myriah Moon, New Life Center's CEO.
Along with New Life Center, Kaity's Way helps parents and teens bridge the gap to start those difficult conversations.
“We need to be talking to our children, you know, and open with them," explains Sudberry.
Kaity's Way also helps teens and parents identify red flags in relationships, which include:
- Possessive behavior
- Trying to dominate the victim's life
“These are all things that happen. And some of them do happen quite early on. And unfortunately, they’re, you know, they’re looked at as not a big deal, but they accumulate into a big deal after a while.”
In 2009, Governor Jan Brewer signed "Kaity's Law" which extends domestic violence protection to people involved in dating relationships like Kaity's.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse, you can contact New Life Center at 623-932-4404.
The National Teen Dating Violence Helpline can be reached at 1-866-331-9474.
You can also visit this website for more information.