“If you love me, you won’t talk to them.”

This is an example of manipulation that rising Tullahoma High School sophomore Juliette Orihuela used in her public service announcement video to demonstrate domestic violence in relationships.

Juliette’s video, which displays common manipulation techniques used by abusers in relationships, was named the winner of a contest begun by Alderman Robin Dunn in partnership with a new task force in the county.

According to Dunn, a recently formed domestic homicide task force in Coffee County - made up of local first responders, investigators, nonprofit administrators and public officials - wanted to try to educate more young people about the early warning signs of domestic violence in relationships.

Tennessee was named fourth in the nation for the rate of domestic homicides, Dunn said, citing information from Haven of Hope, and the task force “came together in late February to confront this alarming trend.”

“Driving home from our first meeting, I knew I wanted to do something preventative as soon as possible,” she said.

As a former teacher, Dunn “remembered all the students I have loved over the years, and my thoughts turned to them. What could have helped some of them better understand the warning signs of abusive behavior?”

Many teenagers are “on the cusp of dating and are experiencing some of their first relationships,” she said, so “I wanted to draw attention to healthy relationship habits for them now, rather than pick up pieces of a broken relationship later.”

That’s when she came up with the idea of having young students engage in a type of contest in order to get them truly immersed in research on the topic.

Originally, Dunn said, she thought about holding an essay contest, but after getting some feedback from some old colleagues, she instead thought having students create video public service announcements (PSAs) would be a better avenue. Not only would creating videos allow students more creative freedom in the process, but those videos would have a better reach online.

“I want our entire community to talk about the red flags of unhealthy relationships, and these students are helping me do that,” she said.

When asked why she wanted to have the freshman class participate in the contest, Dunn said those students were at a prime age to learn about and experience dating and relationships.

“They’re at just the right age, having had some experience with dating or at least some interest in it,” she said. Additionally, Dunn said, she also received great feedback from their teachers, which made her want to work with them herself.

When asked last month what she hoped the video contest would accomplish, Dunn said she hoped that “students who participate will be able to reflect on the warning signs of unhealthy relationships now so that they may have the strength to avoid one in the future.”

“I hope that as they forge relationships with others, that they will be able to establish with their partners and friends appropriate behaviors and boundaries that are respected,” she said. “Relationships are ever-changing things. Behavior that was not a problem at one time could become a problem later.”

Dunn added that opening up the lines of communication between our children can only help to prevent abuse in relationships.

“Our children are seeing abuse every day; we owe it to them to start a conversation,” she said in April. “They need to understand that just because something is widespread doesn’t make it healthy. Just because you’ve lived in an abusive home for your entire life, you don’t have to keep living that way. At fourteen, your life is full of possibilities. I want these kids to remember that.”

Juliette’s video was “not only informative, but moving,” according to Dunn. “She did an outstanding job highlighting the subtleties of domestic abuse.”

Juliette received a grand prize of $100 for her video, Dunn said. The money, she added, was collected and “generously donated” by local area women “who are also deeply concerned with how domestic abuse has found its way into our community.”

You can watch Juliette's video here:

Erin McCullough may be reached by email at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.