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Shining a light on domestic violence

by Kelsie Smith

Rochester, N.Y. - From the very beginning the case of Alexandra Kogut's murder shined a light on the issue of domestic violence, especially between young adults.

"This does happen to your age group and they need to be aware of the signs," said Kogut's longtime friend Paige Whitney, "and they need to be aware if you see something happening they need to stand up for that person."

A jury found Kogut's boyfriend Clayton Whittemore guilty of murder in the second degree after two hours of deliberations.

"We think of domestic violence typically between adults, married couples, people in relationships but this strikes at the very heart of domestic violence," said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. "These are young adolescents just beginning to date, just beginning to form relationships and I think it should be clear to the community and to younger people, yes. You can be a victim of domestic violence even if you are only 18."

According to Jamie Saunders CEO of Alternatives for Battered Women, 18 to 24 is the most pervasive age range for domestic violence.

"This is a very pervasive crime and it's pervasive in our lives and all around us and it's hidden," said Saunders. "There's shame, this wouldn't happen to me I'm an educated smart woman, this wouldn't happen, but of course it can because we all fall in love and when we fall in love with someone that is when we are part of them and they are part of us. And we believe in what the future can be and when there's power and control and anger woven in there you want to believe in the good."

The ebbs and flows are the most complicated part of dating violence, explained Saunders.

And noticing if a loved one is in an abusive relationship isn't always easy to do.

"If you know a loved one who starts being more withdrawn, if you know someone who typically shows up to events but now they no longer do, are they becoming more isolated and are there just signs we call it the bathing suits signs, wearing clothes over parts where there can be abuse, where they can be signs of physical assaults? All of that we should have our antenna up and have it up high, and yet those are still hidden," said Saunders. "The most effective way to help anyone, any young person any family member is to just believe and to check in, just to check in - how are things working in that relationship? Are things working out? I've been a little worried about you are you okay? Anything I can do for you to be safe? Just to be that safe place and safe space is such a gift."

The 24/7 Hotline for Alternatives for Battered Women is: 585-232-7353.

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Washington Times