'We've Got To Educate': Mother Raises Awareness About Teen Domestic Violence
(CBS4) – A murder-suicide involving two Colorado teenagers is sparking a conversation about teen dating violence. A 17-year-old victim was reported missing by her family and found dead inside a vehicle Tuesday night in El Paso County.
Investigators said the suspect, 18-year-old Samuel Hoffman of Littleton, and the victim were friends for years and that their relationship recently turned more serious.
Around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, investigators said the victim left Mile High Academy in Highlands Ranch with the suspect. They drove together to a nearby parking lot where investigators believe the victim was killed. From there, the suspect drove south near Fountain. When officers approached the car, the Hoffman turned the gun on himself.
The tragedy hits home for a Colorado mother who lost her daughter in a similar situation.
"It's been three and a half years since Ashley was killed and really just now getting to a point where I can talk about it," said Ann Marie Doolittle.
Her daughter, Ashley Doolittle, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in a case of teen domestic violence in 2016. Ann Marie fears it will become a public health epidemic if communities don't do more to end the violent behavior.
"I think it's really an education issue," said Ann Marie, who started the Ashley Doolittle Foundation to raise awareness about teen dating violence.
"We've got to educate not just the victim or potential victim, we've got to educate the perpetrator, we've got to educate the community, because everybody can make a difference," Ann Marie told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann.
Ann Marie shares that message during workshops in schools around the state. It brings teens together to learn about how they can help one another by understanding some of the subtle signs of an abusive relationship.
"Is your partner looking through your phone? Are they jealous? Do they want to know where you're at all the time?" Ann Marie explained.
The 'Escalation Workshop' was developed by the One Love Foundation, which has a similar mission to the Ashley Doolittle Foundation – understanding the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. The national organization out of New York created a video that Ann Marie shares in the workshops, showing the evolution of an abusive relationship.
"It really sets the tone for some real valuable discussion on what are the sings, how you can help a friend if they're in an abusive relationship or if you have a friend who's possible a perpetrator," she said. "When we [show this] in the schools, we'll hear the students says, 'we see this happen.'"
Ann Marie also said the workshop helps spark important discussions not just among teens, but with their parents too.
"She said to her mom, 'I'm the girl in the film. I need to get help,'" Ann Marie explained of a parent who thanked her for the workshop. "We get messages all the time through our Facebook page of, 'You helped us get out of this relationship.' That really keeps us going and just re-energizes us to know we're on the right track."
It's those moments, she added, that give her hope that Ashley's death is making a life-saving difference.
"We are helping people in Colorado," Ann Marie said.
The Ashley Doolittle Foundation has resource information for anyone seeking to get out of an abusive relationship. For more information, visit ashleydoolittlefoundation.org or visit their Facebook page.
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