Part I of My Day of Talking about Domestic Violence

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I don’t think anything sticks to one’s psyche like sitting across the table from a mother who has lost their 21 year old daughter. No amount of research can prepare you to talk to a family of four who is now a family of three. The Mitchell’s from Maryland, who lost their beautiful daughter Kristin (right) to dating violence, is such a family. As I sat today in Liz Clairborne’s Time to Talk press room learning about and discussing domestic violence, it was extremely difficult for me to process the large amount of information that was coming at me. I kept going back to Bill and Michelle Michell in my mind. Their daughter had just graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philly when the tragedy happened. She had her entire life ahead of her. Think about when you graduated, and you stood there looking forward down the long road called life. The possibilities are endless. In the few short weeks after graduation, Kristin’s life choices were robbed from her by a jealous, controlling and mentally unstable boyfriend. The last text she sent to her boyfriend was “ you are being ridiculous why cant I do something with my friends”. Hours later, he murdered her. Powerful stuff. It seriously rocked me to my core.

So I asked the family, “ Were there warning signs?” There had to be right? I mean, he must have beat her regularly and threatened her constantly. But no....That’s the scariest part. The warning signs with domestic violence, especially with young adults, are subtle. His extremely controlling behavior through texts were a classic warning sign of potential dating violence, but as young adults embark on their lives, the safety net of mom and dad is pulled slowly from under them, and warning signs can easily be overlooked. Children grow into adults and become more independent, but warning signs are difficult to pick up on, especially if you are young and haven't been educated as to what an unhealthy relationship is. Michelle and Bill told me they did not see this coming. The weekend before the tragedy Michelle and Kristin were at the beach and the boyfriend was texting Kristin constantly, in a very controlling manner. This in itself should be a wake up call to mothers of young adults. Learn to recognize the signs that something is terribly wrong.

The Mitchells’ were asked by Liz Clairborne to testify before the Maryland Ways and Means Committee in March 2009. Their efforts lead to the passing of a bill that would allow education about teen dating violence in schools in Maryland.

Moving forward the best they can, The Mitchell’s are raising funds for the Kristin Mitchell Foundation, to ensure that this doesn’t happen to other young girls. The foundation is able to provide education about dating violence, award grants to local organizations, and offer a scholarship in Kristin’s name. The Kristin’s Krusade is a 5k run/walk held at St. Joseph’s University to raise money and awareness to Kristin’s cause. If you are in the Philly area and would like more information about Kristin’s Krusade, please visit

The name Liz Clairborne may be synonymous with stylish, high quality clothing for real women, but what I learned recently about what they do for the cause of domestic violence blew my mind. Every year, Liz Clairborne hosts a national day of dialogue to promote awareness of domestic violence and teen dating abuse. Throughout the day today, talk radio hosts from around the country participated in a “Talk Radio Row” on domestic violence. I was lucky enough to be asked by MomCentral to join them as a blogger, thus taking advantage of the internet’s viral nature to spread the word. My visit to Liz Clairborne headquarter’s in New York City was much more than I expected it would be. Before meeting with the Mitchells I was sitting at my table awaiting my first interview to get the ball rolling, and Tim Gunn himself walks on over and parks himself right down next to me. Shazam! Like the proverbial trial by fire, I have mere seconds to pull myself together and start talking to him about the topic of the day, which is incredibly close to his heart: Domestic violence. After all “ It’s time to talk”, and talk we did.

Check in tomorrow for Part II of my day of interviews, and to learn more ways you can help stop the violence.