Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Father of murdered domestic abuse victim speaks out at UW

Tony Santoro spoke on campus Monday about his 18-year-old daughter Lisa, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend[/media-credit]

Respect and trust hold the key to a safe and healthy relationship.

A group of students heard this message at Memorial Union Monday during Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment’s Domestic Violence Awareness month event aimed at helping students recognize and prevent abusive behaviors in dating relationships.

Tony Santoro shared his experience as the father of an 18-year-old daughter, Lisa, murdered by her ex-boyfriend.


“This is what dating violence comes down to, power and control over the other partner,” Santoro said.

While girls make up 85 to 95 percent of victims of domestic abuse, both girls and boys can become victims of this power and control, Santoro said.

Many victims fail to realize the early warning signs of abuse, Santoro added.

Abuse often begins with verbal control over a partner, like criticizing a girlfriend’s hairstyle or weight, Santoro said. This can lead to more controlling behaviors, such as managing a girlfriend’s clothing, preventing her from talking to other boys, treating her like property and distrusting her.

These behaviors can persist in a relationship for months before any physical or sexual abuse can occur, Santoro said.

Such was the case for UW Senior Kristina Nailen, an attendee at the event and a survivor of dating violence.

Nailen dated her boyfriend for two and a half years before he began to physically abuse her. After two incidents of physical abuse, and what Nailen called a “grand finale,” she filed a police report against her boyfriend.

According to Santoro, about 75 percent of girls will continue to date their boyfriend after the first sign of physical abuse, making excuses and blaming themselves for the incident.

Nailen dated her boyfriend for almost six years before their relationship ended about a year ago, she said.

Looking back, pinpointing the early warning signs was difficult, but Nailen identified her partner with about half of 14 abusive behaviors on a sheet of questions Santoro provided at the event.

Santoro’s own daughter’s ex-boyfriend showed no abusive signs during the five months they dated, Santoro said.

Only after she began dating someone else did the ex-boyfriend’s mentality become, “If I can’t have her, no one else can,” Santoro said.

Silent tears broke out among the crowd as Santoro shared a slideshow of pictures and read from a journal he writes to Lisa.

Santoro encouraged the crowd to recognize signs of abuse in their own relationships but also offer support to friends in difficult relationships, telling them to not give up on a friend.

He also addressed the males in the crowd, asking them how they would react to a boyfriend hurting their sister and relate that to their own relationships.

“Guess what guys, your girlfriend is probably somebody’s sister, and she is definitely somebody’s daughter,” Santoro said. “You have to learn to treat your girlfriend…with respect and trust.”

A member of the crowd, UW junior Nick Cozzi, saw Santoro speak twice during high school and has used Santoro’s advice to help his own relationships but also promote awareness about dating violence.

After hearing Santoro’s story, Cozzi said many other students could benefit from Santoro’s advice on healthy relationships.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *