Local students head to court for dating violence mock trial

Hays

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — A group of students is headed to court in Hays County Wednesday, acting as attorneys, witnesses and jurors to try a real domestic violence case.

The names have been changed in the case for the Dripping Springs High School mock trial, but the lessons are still very real.

“If you’re able to educate at this age and educate our peers, then that’s how you’re going to stop dating violence in the future,” DSHS junior Addie Villas said. She’ll act as a prosecutor in the case, one in which a wife is accused of assaulting her husband.

It’s the first time the school has chosen a case with a male victim. The accusations — a partner who accuses the other of texting someone else and having a violent reaction — don’t make headlines, but they lead to abuse and worse every day.

The school has been staging mock trials for six years. Each time, several juries with different male-female ratios hear the evidence and decide their own opinions before lawyers familiar with the case explain to the group the actual outcome.

The result of the trial, while not legally binding, is clear.

“I know a bunch of students have never seen the warning signs of this,” junior Rachel King said, “and so through the mock trial, they are able to see this and see dating violence in their own relationships and in relationships of some of their family members or their closest friends.”

Teen dating violence is a serious problem. The advocacy group Love is Respect reports one in three teenagers and young adults experience some kind of abuse from a dating partner, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual. The highest rate of abuse, the group reports, happens to girls and women between 16 and 24 years old.

Knowing the signs can help teens avoid abusive relationships, or leave them before they worsen. Signs to look for include excessive jealousy, a bad temper, isolating someone from friends or family, and insisting that a partner check in constantly. The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence has a longer list of warning signs here.

If you need help, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline here, or by calling 1-800-799-7233.

Throughout central Texas, the Texas Advocacy Project is collecting handbags until April 5 as part of its annual Handbags for Hope campaign. The bags will be filled with information on legal services and other life-saving information and delivered to women in domestic violence shelters. Find where to donate here.

Students at Dripping Springs created the Domestic Violence Awareness Board (DVAB) there years ago to help combat the problem. Six years ago, the board started working with the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center to start the mock trial tradition. 

Students collect supplies in the fall to donate to the shelter, and in past years they’ve raised around $1,200 to donate to the group at the trial itself.

Elsewhere around central Texas, the Texas Advocacy Project is collecting 

King and Villas are both members of the DVAB.

“Entering freshman year, I didn’t know anything about dating violence or domestic violence,” Villas said. “Now, I am able to educate my peers about it and see where it’s happening within the community.”

Working with Sarah Brandon, one of the Hays County attorneys who tried the actual domestic violence case the students will be imitating, participants learned about the trial process. It’s helpful for Villas’ own future, who plans to go into law or possible politics one day.

Through her work with DVAB, she hopes to impact her classmates’ futures as well.

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