BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — “Domestic violence is real and we got to make it more prevalent because our young people are dying," Buffalo school board member Kathy Evan-Browns said.
It was early Saturday morning when Buffalo police said they found 18-year-old Larrinsha Johnson dead inside a vehicle at Martin Luther King Junior Park. The suspect now charged with her murder — her 18-year-old boyfriend.
“This young lady was just a baby. She was just forming. She was just about to bloom into what she could be,” Buffalo school board member Sharon Belton-Cottman said.
According to a Buffalo school board meeting, Larrinsha, affectionately called Lala by family and friends, was a senior MST Preparatory High School. She had plans to go to college in the fall.
“We struggle with getting our children to graduate and when we have students who are college bound and prepared to move forward and tragedy happens in their life, for us, it’s a double blow,” Belton-Cottman said.
Lala’s story follows a dangerous and sometimes deadly narrative for many teens and young adults in America. According to the Family Justice Center, one in three teens and young adults will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“And that one in three age group with the teens and young adult are extremely high risk,” operations manager at the Family Justice Center Ava said.
Ava said many young or first time relationships may include intimate partner violence. That can be physical, verbal, or mental abuse from a partner. And in that relationship, there is often a clear power dynamic.
“If you have to constantly have your phone on you, or answer every text, or answer every call. Or you are questioned. That’s something you definitely want to look at because that behavior can escalate,” Ava said.
Ava said parents should take note of changed behaviors in their children. For example if they leave the room anytime their significant other calls, unexplained bruises around the neck area, or drastic changes in grades.
“A lot of times that’s equated to, 'oh, that's just that age,' or 'it's something with school or substance use.' We need also look at domestic violence relationship abuse," Ava said. "That might be what’s causing it.”
Ava said if anyone ever feels unsafe in a relationship, it may be an abusive one. So when you’re ready, reach out to domestic violence services like the Family Justice Center to seek help.
“You are never alone if you’re experiencing this. You can call us and we will absolutely 100 percent help you,” Ava said.
The Family Justice Center can be reached at 716-558-7233.