Apparent murder-suicide in Blacksburg reinforcing importance of healthy relationships

BLACKSBURG, Va. – A young life was taken too soon after an apparent murder-suicide in Blacksburg.

Loved ones said Serenity Hawley was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself. Her mom told 10 News that Blacksburg High School had issued a no-contact order for the two teens, and she pushed for a restraining order.

[‘To know she is gone is just unreal’: Parents of victim in Blacksburg apparent murder-suicide speak out]

Laura Beth Weaver, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley said looking out for red flags in relationships is a priority.

“Things like taking control of all the decision-making, things like trying to be in control of what the partner wears or eats or where they go,” Weaver said. “Pushing someone to break rules and boundaries. My curfew is 11 o’clock and my boyfriend keeps me out past 11 every night.”

According to the CDC, 1 in 12 students experience physical dating violence. Weaver said that doesn’t account for the emotional, financial, or exploitation that students are going through as well.

“For 1 in 12 adolescents to report they have experienced it within the last year, is too many, it’s never the victim’s fault,” Weaver said.

ORIGINAL STORY: Two found dead in parking garage identified as two Blacksburg High School students

From healthy to unhealthy to abusive relationships, the main difference is the power dynamic.

“The distinction between those is the power in balance when one person has and maintains power over another person’s behavior or choices, and that can start very early, that’s not a thing that waits for marriage,” Weaver said.

Now she urges the community to ask for help when needed.

“What we hope that folks will start talking about is that it’s okay to access help, it’s okay to ask for help. From any safe adult,” Weaver said.

Below is a list of domestic violence resources for anyone seeking help:

Resources for children and young adults dealing with feelings of grief can be found below:

About the Authors

Kelly Marsh joined the team in July 2023.

Lauren Helkowski joined WSLS 10’s digital team in August 2022, but has held a passion for storytelling long before.

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