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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Teen dating violence:
When young love spins out of control

Bobbi Sudberry, Kaity’s Way

Bobbi Sudberry of Phoenix, founder of Kaity’s Way.

Bobbi Sudberry rushed home from work one afternoon after one of her six children called, concerned about police cars gathered on their street.

“This is more than I can handle,” she recalls thinking, after an officer asked for a picture of her 17-year-old daughter Kaity.

Sudberry called her husband, Ric, home from the office, and a detective told them together that Kaity had been killed.

Former boyfriend Daniel Byrd was lying in wait as Kaity walked home from school that day. He shot Kaity in a neighbor’s side yard, then turned the shotgun on himself.

One in three girls is the victim of teen dating violence — physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner — according to Sojourner Center in Phoenix.

Kaity was a senior at Moon Valley High School in Phoenix and started dating Byrd after the two met at school. “It was her first dating relationship,” recalls her mother.

The day Kaity brought him home to meet her parents, Byrd was polite and conversational. “He presented well,” says Sudberry.

For about five months, she says, it looked like a typical dating relationship. But then things started to spin out of control. Byrd got possessive and jealous. He tried to isolate Kaity from her family and friends.

“In the beginning, it was emotional and verbal abuse,” recalls Sudberry. “She made excuses for him. And he apologized every time.”

A friend spotted bruising on Kaity’s back, but Kaity never revealed the cause.

One in 10 high school students has been purposely hit, slapped or physically hurt by a partner.
Eventually Kaity broke up with Byrd. She was eager to graduate with her friends and study wildlife science at Northern Arizona University.

But Byrd wouldn’t let go. He murdered Kaity on January 8, 2008.

That April, Sudberry decided to start a nonprofit called Kaity’s Way to help other families prevent similar tragedies. Sudberry shares her daughter’s story several times a week in school and community settings, helping others learn both warning signs and ways to get help.

Before Kaity’s murder, her family never considered the possibility of domestic violence among teens. “Now we know this behavior is way too prevalent,” says Sudberry.

Only 33 percent of teens who have been in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse, says Sudberry.

“Talk with your kids about what’s healthy in relationships,” urges Peterson. “And set up an atmosphere where they know they can talk to you.”

If a relationship turns abusive, it will help your teen find the strength to walk away and ask for help. Learn more at kaitysway.org.

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Lynn Trimble

Lynn Trimble is a Scottsdale writer and the mother of three college-age children.

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