MADISON, Wis. - The Mazomanie shooting deaths that Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said came at the hands of an ex-boyfriend angry over a breakup, are an example of teen dating violence the executive director of Dane County's Domestic Abuse Intervention Service calls common.
"Sometimes I think we have this belief that domestic violence only stays within a relationship," DAiS Director Shannon Barry said. "But I think this particular incident shows that there can be bystanders in these situations who are also at risk."
Mahoney said even though 17-year-old Dean Sutcliffe's ex-girlfriend was not at home at the time of the shooting, the shots he fired at her home ended up killing her 16-year-old sister and her mom's 39-year-old boyfriend.
"Certainly this incident highlights the fact that this individual allegedly made a choice to come forward and hurt this family in this way," Barry said.
In the domestic violence context, Barry said snapping after a breakup is the most common myth -- because if abusers just snapped, their violence would be random instead of targeted.
"Typically when you have a lethal situation like this, there have been behaviors leading up," Barry said. "Somebody who's using violence in that way is demonstrating that they have control over their violence. That it's not escalated to a point where it's random."
DAiS points to loveisrespect.org numbers showing nearly one in three teens that have been in relationships have experienced the most common forms of domestic violence. But Barry said teens do not often realize they are in danger.
"So often, I think, the biggest thing, especially early on in a relationship, is teens will identify that the person really cares about them because they're jealous. And often times I think teens mistake jealousy and love," Barry said. "The reality is jealousy is a red flag for someone who might be controlling in a relationship."
Mahoney said while Sutcliffe was known to deputies because of family dynamic and school attendance issues, he did not have a criminal record.
Barry said teens often do not report dangerous situations. That is why Barry is urging them and the people in their support systems to reach out for help.
DAiS' 24-hour help line number is 608-251-4445.
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