A Mother and Daughter Team Teaching Lessons on Teen Dating Violence: Carolyn Mosely and Ortralla Mosely
During a season of speaking to youth about teen dating violence, I decided that I needed to tell them about young people just like them.
After an online search, I discovered media reports about the murder of teenager Ortralla Mosely. Ortralla was murdered at school by the boyfriend that she had just broken up with.
I’m a mother. I didn’t want to speak about another mother’s child without permission and blessing.
Ortralla’s mother, Carolyn, graciously extended that through a series of email exchanges.
A Reversal of Joy
13 days after Carolyn Mosely, a single mother of three children, got married, her daughter was murdered. At school.
Her youngest daughter. Her baby.
The scene was so horrible that even the teachers were screaming. Hollering. Not a student. Not a great student like Ortralla Mosley.
Ortralla was a good student. She was smart. When Ortralla noticed that her relationship with 16-year-old Marcus Mctear was interfering with her being a good student. Standing all up in the way of her progress. She broke up with him.
She had no time for someone impeding her progress with their controlling and possessive ways. Ortralla was a leader. Not only was she a was a cheerleader but she was a leader on her school dance squad. After she passed, one of her English teachers spoke about how other girls went to Ortralla when they had problems.
An Extremely Painful Day
In the beginning, Marcus Mctear seemed to be a good match for driven Ortralla Mosely. He was a football player at another high school where he too was looked up to by other students. Although he had been the subject of six reported school disturbances. But you know, male athlete. So…….
A security guard at the school had seen Ortralla and Marcus arguing that morning. At around 4 pm that same day, armed with two knives, Marcus approached Ortralla and stabbed her six times. She passed away on the scene.
Defensive wounds show that Ortralla fought for her life but, in a matter of minutes, someone who claimed to care about her stole that life. Ortralla’s mother had received a pager notification from another student. By the time she got to the hospital, someone else had already identified her and Ortralla was in the morgue.
Even on the day of Ortralla’s death, Carolyn noted that had she known that the conflict between Ortralla and Marcus seemed to be elevating, she would have surely gone to her daughter and youngest child to make sure that she was okay. She spoke of having regrets that she wasn’t informed about the morning argument. Unfortunately, Carolyn did not get a full and relatively comprehensive story from the school until two weeks later.
According to news reports, what was most painful to Carolyn, was that she never received a single condolence call from the school or any official in the district. The school superintendent acknowledged that due to the various investigations, “it seems possible” that no one had reached out to Carolyn, Ortralla Mosely’s mother.
This was not Mctear’s first abusive relationship with a fellow student. The mother of that student reported seeing her daughter come home with bruises. She reports attempting to contact the school principal but never hearing back. After Mctear allegedly pushed her daughter down a flight of stairs, she moved her daughter to another school.
Upon reflection, Carolyn had noticed that Marcus complained about her daughter Ortralla’s clothing being “too revealing”. Still, she thought she had set the young man-who had begun calling her “Momma”-straight. She reminded the young man that her momma bought her those clothes and that her momma was fine with what Ortralla chose to wear.
For the short five months that the two teens dated, Carolyn was unaware of any major issues. That was until the day after she got married, on her honeymoon, when she heard from Ortralla alerting her that Marcus had tried to cut his own throat.
Upon notification, the newlyweds ended their honeymoon to take care of family matters that had exploded into a tragedy.
This tragedy offered lessons on how we can all do better to intervene in teen dating violence. Ortralla’s mother was not aware of what others had been witnessing at school. She was not made aware that Ortralla and Marcus were seen arguing in the hallway on the morning of her murder.
A Mother Loves
Despite the silence from the school officials to Carolyn, Carolyn spoke to students on the school's P.A. system. She assured them that Ortralla loved them. That she was fine now, and she was aware of their love for her. It was this grieving mother’s words that brought comfort and peace. Students did not know what to do with the immense pain that they were feeling. There were concerns of more violence. Vengeance.
When children are in pain, they sometimes believe that someone must pay for that.
Amid her grief, Carolyn continued to publicly highlight her sentiment that Marcus needs help.
Home of Assaults
Parents often report feeling “guilt” about not knowing about their child’s relationship struggles but children are good at keeping secrets hidden when they fear revealing that secret. So much of what happens in teen dating relationships doesn’t happen while parents are watching. Teens commonly share stories of violence, abuse, and manipulation that happen during school hours and on school grounds.
If you ask girls, if you listen to girls, sometimes they will tell you about being threatened, harassed, or even assaulted on school grounds. American Idol winner and performer Fantasia Barrino has been open about being assaulted in a small room at her high school.
Schools cannot continue reacting to teen dating violence and being shocked when it occurs. Students spend most of their young years in school among their peers. Schools of all types need to have a teen dating violence prevention plan, a response plan, and a follow-up plan.
What Can Be Done
1. Great guidance counselors are much needed. We have always needed more mental health experts in school and today that need is even more critical.
2. If the school offers sex education, it is a great time to add in discussions about coercive behavior.
3. We want to avoid children having to find their own solutions to relationship challenges that stump many adults. Relationships are hard and having adults to help guide them through the challenges can make a difference.
4. Youth should be assured that safe and healthy relationships are the standard expectation, but that they should be patient until they can have a healthy relationship partner.
5. Youth should learn that gaining more freedoms and privileges also requires setting boundaries and building healthy relationships with friends and relationship partners.
6. We are all human. Teens should be assured that even if they get it wrong, or are in the act of doing something wrong, there are safe adults around them to help them to navigate through.
Safe adults are defined as people who love you, want the best for you, believe in you, want to keep you safe, and therefore want to help you.
7. This work is hard, but we can never give up the search for answers and solutions to protecting and preventing violence against girls.
We would be wise to continue collaborating with students, parents, teachers, and mental health professionals from the community to improve our plans to keep all kids safe.