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On April 17th, Johanna Orozco, an advocate for the prevention of dating violence, spoke to high school students at Salem Senior High School in Salem, Ohio. Orozco addressed warning signs to look out for, which could indicate an abusive relationship, and gave an in-depth, detailed and compelling story of her very own experience with dating violence.
Orozco has witnessed first hand and knows all too well what a violent, volatile and abusive relationship can do to someone.
Her first love started out like most others. At the beginning, it seemed like a fairy tale come true. Orozco met her first love, Juan Ruiz, when they were kids, and started dating when Orozco was in the tenth grade. “They were the ideal couple. Everyone wanted to be like Johanna and Juan,” said Lincoln West High School drama club supervisor Catherine Zak. “They were outgoing, personable and very much in love.”
However, their relationship made a drastic turn for the worse when Ruiz grew controlling, jealous and abusive. When Orozco removed pictures of them together, Ruiz snuck into her bedroom in the middle of the night and raped her at knifepoint. After authorities were contacted, Ruiz was arrested.
According to ABC News, “Ruiz was released from the detention center and placed on house arrest when he visited Orozco March 5, 2007. While she was sitting in the driver’s seat of her SUV in her grandparents’ driveway, he shot his former girlfriend in the face. Glass and blood covered the floor of the vehicle. Orozco was rushed to the hospital.”
After Orozco was shot, “she was missing her entire chin, most of her neck and her upper lip.” She also lost almost all of her teeth in the attack and now suffers from paralysis of her lower lip. Her surgeon, Dr. Michael Fritz, performed over a dozen procedures in order to get Orozco’s face to look as much as possible like she did before the shotgun blast. In order to see Orozco’s transformation please visit, http://abcnews.go.com/2020/slideshow?id=8762450.
After she was released from the hospital, Orozco went back to high school and even attended prom and graduation. Her original plans were to go to college, but after all that she had endured and the support in letters, e-mails and cards from people all over the country, she had a change of heart and decided she wanted to become an advocate to help young people learn the dangers of abusive relationships. And despite all she has endured at the age of just 23, she is moving forward and speaking out, telling her inspirational story of perseverance, strength and courage.
Orozco is now very active in the Cleveland region where she was raised, and speaks at engagements regularly to spread the word about dating violence. Since her tragedy, laws have been passed in the state of Ohio in order to further protect victims of abusive relationships. In 2010, the Ohio Senate approved a bill that allows judges to protect teens in abusive relationships.
As for Ruiz, he pleaded guilty for everything he had done to Orozco in 2007 and was sentenced to 27 years in prison without the eligibility for parole.
According to the book, “Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Sociality,” one in five female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. And according to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 30% to 50% of female high school students have reported some form of teen dating violence. But what about the teenagers who aren’t reporting what’s happening to them?
Whether you have been a victim of an abusive relationship or not, it is increasingly important to raise awareness about what is happening to the youth of today’s society. To learn more statistics about dating violence amongst teenagers, warning signs to look out for and how to be safer and smarter when it comes to dating, be sure to check out www.acadv.org. If you feel that you are at risk, please contact the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-650-6522.