Talent show educates teens about domestic violence

Kerrion Smith, a junior at Meade High School, and Marisol Muniz, a senior, portray two teens in an unhealthy relationship during a talent show sponsored Friday at the Teen Center by Fort Meade’s Family Advocacy Program. (Photos by Lisa R. Rhodes)

Acting in a skit about abusive relationships, Kerrion Smith and Marisol Muniz took on the role of the two teenagers.

They performed in a talent show at the Fort Meade Teen Center aimed at educating teenagers about the dangers of domestic violence.

The hourlong show, presented Friday, was sponsored by Fort Meade’s Family Advocacy Program. Seven teens competed.

Kyle Stafford, a seventh-grader at MacArthur Middle School, performed a magic show and won first place. Autumn Embra, an eighth-grader at MaArthur, took second place after performing “Pretty Hurts,” a song co-written by Beyoncé.

FAP sponsored the event in observance of DomesticViolence Awareness Month.

“Domestic violence starts at this age,” said Katherine Lamourt, a domestic abuse victim advocate at FAP. “This is when teens start dating and should ask, ‘Is this the right person for me? Can I really trust this person?’ ”

In a report released earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 7 percent of women and 4 percent of men who experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner had first experienced some form of partner violence before age 18.

The 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found approximately 10 percent of high school students reported physical victimization, while 10 percent reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed.

In the skit, Kerrion, a junior at Meade High, portrayed a controlling boyfriend who demanded to know his girlfriend’s every move. The 16-year-old also forbade her to accept lunch from another male student.

Marisol, a 17-year-old senior at Meade High, portrayed the girlfriend who refused to be told what to do.

Charell Walter, an eighth-grader at MacArthur Middle School, performs a solo, which she composed, on the ukelele during the talent show.

In the midst of the argument, the boyfriend took a textbook, striking his girlfriend across the face. The audience of teens shrieked in horror.

“That’s not even OK,” one male teen said aloud.

After the skit, Kerrion addressed his peers.

“Over half of the murders of women are related to a husband,” he said. “Arguments lead to small hits, which can lead to fatal blows, even murder.”

In another skit, the teen actors portrayed a male teen who is verbally and physically abused by his girlfriend.

“Abuse can go both ways,” said Wynona Jessop, a sophomore at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, after the skit. “Girls can also be the abuser. It’s not always a guy.”

Lamourt said FAP frequently visits the Teen Center to educate young people on how to form healthy relationships.

“Since they’re starting to date, we want to make sure they’re making the proper choices,” she said.

Lamourt said it’s important that teens recognize the signs of all forms of abuse — physical, emotional, verbal and financial. Teens must take the time to think about how a friend or a romantic interest treats them.

“You do have options,” she said. “Domestic violence is about power and control — lowering the other person’s self-esteem.”

Before the show, Lamourt told the audience that an abusive relationship can include pushing, slaps, bullying in person or on social media, or hurting someone’s feelings.

She said teens should establish high standards for how they want others to treat them and only socialize with people who meet those standards.

The other performers in the talent show included: Aniya McDuffie, a sixth-grader at MacArthur who peformed “Lost Boy” sung by Ruth B., and Charell Walter, an eighth-grader at MacArthur who performed an original ukelele solo.

Ellana Muniz, a seventh-grader at MacArthur, and Alexis Hogans, a sixth-grader at MacArthur who, along with Aniya, performed a skit about cyberbullying. They sang Hailee Steinfield’s “Most Girls.”

All the performers received a prize from FAP.

Charell said she learned a lot from the other performers.

“I learned what is abuse,” she said. “Even both genders can be abusers. It can go from verbal to physical violence. … People need to know they can get out of it.”

Stephen Williams, a senior at Meade High, and Milan Mijatov-Ivan, a junior, performed in other skits with Kerrion and Marisol.

Stephen said teens and adults may not be aware that physical abuse is common among teenagers.

“It’s a little more personal, the physical abuse,” he said. “We wanted to do skits that grabbed people’s attention.”

Dale Bowser, a homework technician at the Teen Center, said the talent show was an effective way to raise awareness about domestic violence.

“To teach teens awareness in a creative way — when they can act and sing — it helps them to remember what’s important and find a way to apply it to their lives,” she said.

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