Speaker advocates for relationship violence awareness
Nicole Caratas | Friday, November 13, 2015
In his final lecture after 18 years of speaking engagements, Tom Santoro spoke to Saint Mary’s students on Thursday about the warning signs of dating violence and his personal experience with issue.
Santoro said his daughter, Lisa Santoro, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who had never previously shown signs of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. However, after Lisa’s murder, the Santoro family found out he had been stalking Lisa for months and had beaten someone the day they broke up — both signs that indicated he was an abuser.
Santoro showed a video about his daughter, which featured her delivering a prayer to her high school class for all victims of violence.
“She wanted to pray for violence in her day, for the end of it,” Santoro said. “Lisa’s not here to carry out her prayer and her dream. So if I reach one person in this room today, I did something for Lisa, but I also did something for all the victims of domestic and dating violence.”
Santoro said abuse almost always starts out with verbal abuse.
“A little name calling, making fun of you, putting you down in front of your friends, [that is] outright verbal abuse,” Santoro said. “When they do that to you, and they do that over and over again, a person starts to believe what they’re being told.”
Santoro said victims of relationship violence go back to their abuser an average of seven times. He said this is because victims block out the bad parts of their relationship and focus on the few good aspects.
Additionally, he said, many victims believe themselves to be in love, the result being that no matter how badly they are treated, victims find it hard to let go of their abuser. Santoro also said although women are on average more likely to be the victim of relationship violence, men can also be affected by the issue.
“When someone does something to hurt you, and they do this to you over and over again, there’s your red flag,” he said. “There’s your warning, and that’s when you should step back.”
The two most important parts of a relationship are respect and trust, Santoro said.
“Find a partner who is going to respect you and trust you,” he said. “I know it takes time to build up respect and trust, but when you find it, you should be in a healthy — and even more importantly, you should be in a very safe — relationship.
“You have to trust your partner. You cannot stop them if they want to go do something. A girl should never have to worry about getting caught talking to another guy because she’s scared her boyfriend will get mad.”
Santoro said the most important thing to do if a friend is in an abusive relationship is to be supportive and to remind that friend that it is not his or her fault. Although victims of abuse may try to push away anyone who tries to help, Santoro said, it is important not to give up on them.