When Mika Sasaki’s charming new boyfriend began to show his dark side, she thought she would be able to change him.
“When we first met, he seemed like a really sweet and family-oriented guy,” the City College of San Francisco sophomore said of the classmate who asked her out last January. “I thought I could make him a good boyfriend.”
But the relationship quickly turned violent.
When she broke up with him last March, he broke into her house. He called and texted relentlessly for months, then lured her to a meeting at a BART station and savagely beat her.
It was a harrowing experience, but Sasaki, who will discuss dating violence today at Raoul Wallenberg High School, believes her story can serve as a cautionary tale.
“There were a lot of warning signs,” she said. “It was scary, but at the same time I was a little naive.”
The discussion kicks off a Bay Area campaign to make young people and adults aware of the signs of dating violence. The effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, will feature ads in BART and Muni stations, as well as a new primer for healthcare workers who deal with young people.
“It’s something that’s overlooked,” said Melanie Natividad, a counselor at the school’s wellness center. “People are like, ‘Oh, young love!’ but it’s something that will really affect their lives.”
For Sasaki, the fear remained even after the abuse ended.
“There were days that I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “Any noise I heard I was worried he would just pop through the window. The worst part was it was affecting my education.”
Today, her ex-boyfriend sits in jail awaiting trial on domestic violence charges. Sasaki carries a copy of a restraining order against him, but she has learned to see a positive side to the experience.
“Not that it’s something to be proud of,” she said, “but I have been there and I got through it.”
As a volunteer with Expect Respect, a program run by the college women’s studies department, Sasaki addresses high school students about dating violence. She cautions that no one, not even a self-possessed college student, is immune.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how educated you are, what race you are, what gender you are,” she said. “All young people, everybody needs to pay attention to red flags and warning signs.”
Warning signs for dating violence
• Extreme jealousy or insecurity
• Isolation from family or friends
• Making false accusations
• Verbal abuse
• Using text messaging to monitor a partner’s whereabouts
• Physical abuse
How to get help:
National Dating Abuse Helpline
Source: INOBTR campaign