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Woman shares story of teenage sister being killed in abusive relationship

Erin Castro killed by boyfriend Josh Garcia, officials say

A woman whose 16-year-old sister was murdered by her boyfriend is sharing the warning signs of an abusive teenage relationship.

One in three teenagers in the United States will be the victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by someone they're dating, experts say.

Many teenagers suffer in silence because they're scared to speak out.

Ashley Rios said she remembers when her little sister, Erin Castro, a 16-year-old with a loving family and a passion for animals, started to change.

"It started with bringing her down," Rios said. "Her insecurities -- 'You're gaining weight.' Just calling her ugly names on the phone."

Rios said Castro's boyfriend, Josh Garcia, poked at the type of insecurities that plague many of today's teenage girls.

"She believed him, and I felt like that's what happens to all these young girls," Rios said.

Castro kept up her schoolwork and seemed OK, so Rios said she had no idea her sister was in danger until the first attack happened.

"She was starting to push away from him," Rios said. "She said they went driving around and he had gotten upset. He parked the car and started wailing on her."

He was convicted of aggravated assault and was given two years of probation. Castro cut contact for a long time.

"He made his way back in her life," Rios said. "She had hid it from all of us. She said, 'He's changed.'"

Rios said there was another attack. Garcia's arrest affidavit says he stabbed Castro then ran over her with his car so she wouldn't call police.

Castro died, and Garcia was charged with murder.

"We work with survivors of dating violence every day," said Averett Robey, prevention education program director at HAVEN.

Employees at HAVEN of Oakland County get calls on their 24-hour crisis line from teenagers. They said it's important to pay attention to signs of an abusive relationship.

"If someone is really jealous or monitoring or stalking or isolating someone, or constantly putting them down, calling them names or telling them they can never do anything right, that they're not spending as much time as they were with their family or friends, maybe they're not spending time in their extracirricular activities," Robey said.

One of the largest warning signs is social media and texting, Robey said.

"That someone is monitoring their cellphone, someone is going through their cellphone, or someone is going through their social media to see who their friends with -- blocking, unfollowing people they don't want them to have access with," Robey said. "It's important to remind folks to always tell survivors that it's not their fault, that we believe them and to keep that nonjudgmental approach. If we can keep showing up for survivors, it makes it a lot easier for folks to ask for support if and when they need it."

HAVEN is always available on its 24-hour crisis lines -- 248-334-1274 and 877-922-1274 -- or online chat. It also offers prevention programs in the school system, again teaching children what a healthy relationship looks like and how to support each other.

Click here to visit the HAVEN website.

Below are some statistics and events from HAVEN.

Statistics:

  • 1 in 5 women and one in 33 men report experiencing rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives.
  • 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
  • 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported to police.
  • 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Events:

Volunteer Day of Action -- April 8-12

You can support HAVEN’s mission to prevent sexual assault and intimate partner violence by bringing a group to volunteer for a day during the organization's week of service. Volunteer projects include cleaning, hosting an event for clients (game/craft/pamper night), or cooking and serving a meal in the shelter. HAVEN encourages groups to be creative with how they would like to volunteer and think how their skills/talents can benefit survivors.

National Denim Day -- April 24

Denim Day has been internationally recognized since 1999 in protest of an Italian High Court ruling to overturn a rape conviction because the 18-year-old survivor was wearing jeans. Show you stand with survivors by organizing a group to wear denim and collect a donation to support HAVEN.

March for Consent -- 2 p.m. April 27 at Geary Park in Ferndale

One in 5 women and 1 in 33 men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. HAVEN encourages people to join it in demanding an end to sexual violence and creating a culture of consent. For more information, click here.


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