She died three years ago last week, Tuesday to be precise, murdered by an ex-boyfriend.
Last month, two men received sentences of life in prison in connection with her death.
The sentences put a spotlight back on a handbook developed by members of the Woburn Memorial High School Resource Officer student mentors and Woburn Police Det. Edward Fumicello, WMHS resource officer, on what students should know about teen dating violence after the death of Shannon Lee Meara in 2008.
Meara graduated from Woburn High School, according to the booklet. She had attended Suffolk University, taking classes toward a law degree. She was 24 when she died on Jan. 18, 2008. Fumicello said the case was closed last month with the sentencing of two men involved with her death.
For the last four years, an increasing number of high school students have worked with Fumicello on projects related to their safety and well-being, such as the 20-page booklet, Fumicello said Thursday.
The purpose of the handbook is “to provide valuable information for teens in a relationship,” the introduction states. “We offer teens guidance on how to recognize abuse, how to talk about it and where to access assistance.”
Teen dating violence is a difficult issue, Fumicello said, because some teens miss warning signs, such as a partner being overprotective.
At 16, your dating partner should not be telling you what to wear or how to act, Fumicello said emphatically. “Nobody—except your parents—should be telling you what to do,” he added.
The concise booklet lists early warning signs of potential dating violence: controlling, jealous and possessive behaviors, as well as dating safety tips and a dating bill of rights.
The issue of control is more prevalent now, according to Fumicello, because of technology.
“It’s socially acceptable to say, ‘Where are you, (profanity)’?” by text, he said. “That’s a controlling behavior.”
According to the handbook, “One in five high school female students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.”
All WMHS students received a copy of the handbook this past spring, and a representative from the REACH domestic violence organization and a district attorney came to talk to them about abuse laws and other legal issues related to dating violence, Fumicello said.
Especially with graduation approaching, “Seniors need to know this because they're going off to college,” said Fumicello. “They need skills (to deal with) what’s out there in real life.”
Some students thought the handbook and focus on it was “a waste of time,” according to Fumicello. They thought the behaviors described in it were typical and OK, he said.
But the handbook has made an impression, he said. Now some students who see this behavior are coming forward and talking about it.
Parents need to be more aware of the issue of teen dating violence, according to the high school resource officer. Especially with today’s technology, parents may not hear some signs of dating violence—arguing on the phone, for example, he pointed out.
The WMHS students, all seniors now, also compiled a pocket-size list of telephone numbers for services ranging from local and Boston hospitals to agencies that deal with domestic violence to local emergency numbers.
“We put in every phone number we could possibly think of,” Fumicello said. “We want (students) to know they have somewhere to turn.”
“Never believe you are alone,” the handbook states. "(You) deserve to be treated with respect.”
Fumicello and students are working to make the handbook’s message into a video, like a public service announcement, he said, that would be shown at school.
“We don’t want this (information) to fall by the wayside,” he said.