The Lighthouse Shelter used beauty on the runway to illustrate an ugly trend in relationships.
With clothing from the shelter's thrift store and a list of the most common symptoms of dating violence, Lighthouse Executive Director Debbie Wallace and Missouri Valley College student Alisha Lovelace shined a new light on dating violence. A crowd of all ages gathered at the Marshall High School to see discount fashions and receive a brief education on a dangerous and prominent issue.
"We at The Lighthouse Shelter work with (dating violence) on a daily basis," Wallace said.
Wallace rattled through the list of potential abusive behaviors. She explained abusers often check their partner's cell phone or email without permission. Prior to the show, Lovelace stressed the technology's role in abusive relationships. These communication tools can act as leashes and fuel controlling relationships.
"If you don't speak out, it can really turn into a very dangerous situation," she said.
Several of Alisha's models recognized the importance of dating-violence education as well.
Runway volunteers Gary Najera, 20; Dakotta Thompson, 20; and Alisha's sister Gabriel Lovelace, 20, identified with the lack of decency in some relationships. Specifically, Gabriel Lovelace has watched a friend struggle through a boarder-line abusive relationship.
"The message of the runway is that love is not abuse," she said. "If you're going to be in a relationship, you should be happy. It should not be violent."
Thompson stressed the importance of respect in relationships and noted how easily technology masks possessiveness and dangerous behavior.
"I could be sitting next to Gary, and he could be getting abused right now over his cell phone," he said, as he gestured to his friend. "It's happening is so many ways, and nobody notices it."
During the show, Wallace briefly listed additional warning signs such as jealousy, explosive tempers, isolation, mood swings and harmful physical contact. Alisha explained teen dating violence affects both male and females, and heterosexual and homosexual relationships. In these instances a dominant partner exercises control over a significant other.
Najera agreed girls can participate in abuse as well. He explained a girl's controlling behavior can negatively affect her boyfriend.
"People deserve better than that," Najera said. "It's just not a way of life."
Collectively, the three models said actively incorporating respect into relationships could deter dangerous behavior.
Thompson explained the manners he'd learned as a child influenced his attitudes toward dating.
"I was taught to be the best gentlemen I can be," Thompson said. "Treat (girls) how you want to be treated. It's the main thing we learn in grade school. It's respect."
The Lighthouse Shelter aided 864 victims in 2011, and 267 of them were children.
Wallace stressed the shelter has 24-hour services available for victims of all ages, and she believes using a fun event to discuss a serious issue helped reach out to the younger generation.
"It was lighthearted and fun over such a serious issue," she said. "I think when you do something like this that's fun, you can really get people's attention."
Factory Connection also provided clothes for the fashion show.
A number of local businesses helped sponsor the event.