By Peyton Comeaux-Scallion
HAWC Outreach Counselor for Children and Youth

Three years ago, I lost my best friend from high school to domestic violence. Chateri Payne was a newly sworn officer for the Shreveport Police Department. She had just created a plan to leave her abusive relationship with her fiancé, moved into an apartment on her own, and Chateri was looking forward to beginning her new life with her daughter. On January 9, 2019, her ex gunned her down as she was walking to her car, heading to work. Tragically, she was shot, and Chateri died before I could reach the hospital.

Chateri Payne
(Left) HAWC Children and Youth Outreach Counselor Peyton Comeaux-Scallion (Right) Chateri Payne

At the time of her murder, I was in graduate school studying for my Masters Degree in Social Work.  While I knew I wanted to work with kids and teens, I had not considered pursuing domestic violence advocacy until what happened to Chateri. A year and a half after her death, in August 2020, I was hired at HAWC as a Children and Youth Outreach Counselor, with a focus on violence prevention and teen dating violence.

As a counselor, I work with teens who have experienced dating and domestic violence. We talk about healthy outlets for emotions, healthy relationships, and self-esteem. We also identify red flags and set boundaries so that each individual feels safe and comfortable in their own environments. In many ways, working with youth is also my way of healing and finding purpose from the pain of losing Chateri so young.  She was just 22 years old.

According to, 1 in 3 young people (18-24) will end up in an abusive relationship, while females in this age group are three times more likely to be abused than their male counterparts.  What’s more, 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. admitted to being intentionally hit by someone that they are romantically involved with.

So why is teen dating violence so pervasive? For one, displays of violence are rampant.  From television, to music, to social media, an overall level of toxicity and abuse is practically praised in front of young minds as the standard for relationships. From artists using derogatory terms towards their significant other, or shows alluding to being intimate with partners despite them being passed out and unconscious, teens are being taught that abuse is normal,  even an acceptable part of the dating process.

Many youth have also experienced violent upbringings. They begin to normalize this as how to express emotions, affection, passion, and even disdain towards their significant other. From yelling and screaming to prove a point, to dismissing and belittling their loved one’s feelings, and even resulting to physical punishment when angered, many victims and perpetrators of teen dating violence are just replicating what they see within the walls of their homes.

When I think back to when I was grade school age, I remember being told that if a boy was mean to me or hit me, it meant he really liked me or thought that I was pretty. What message is that sending to young boys and girls? Hitting and being aggressive towards the person of your affection should never be glamorized and yet, this is what many of our youth believe.

Ruminating on the environment that was present in the schools I attended, I also think of non-consensual kissing, touching, and groping, girls and boys being “snatched up” by the arms when doing things deemed unfavorable, and other things that seemed extremely normal in my then-teenage mind. I realize now as an adult, that many of the relationships I witnessed were indeed unhealthy and abusive in nature and exposed harmful power dynamic tendencies.  In my work as a counselor, we help children and youth identify those harmful power dynamics in their relationships, and we teach them how to set boundaries and standards for their partners to uphold.

We can combat teen dating violence by being proactive and stopping the violence before it starts. Learn about consent and appropriate versus inappropriate interactions, both verbally and physically. Reprimand and discourage aggressive play, harsh language, and the mistreating of other classmates, especially when kids are young.  Words matter, and removing harmful phrases and clichés like “boys will be boys” or “that’s how you know a girl likes you, if she hits you” can help create a safer environment as teens entering the dating world. Clichés impact young, impressionable minds, leaving many teens to succumb to unnecessary abuse and trauma, which can affect them well into adulthood and every relationship thereafter.

In one of Chateri’s final Facebook posts, she expressed her excitement about becoming a police officer:

“My personal mission is to become that positive influence. To protect those who can’t protect themselves & to at least try to push someone to being a better version of themselves!”

I miss Chateri terribly, and I commit to ensuring her murder was not in vain through my advocacy and work at HAWC.  February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  Let us shine the spotlight on this issue to promote safe and healthy relationships, and to continue on the path of ending violence for all, and for good.

Click here to learn more about Domestic Violence.

24/7 Hotlines: 
Domestic Violence Hotline: (713) 528-2121
Sexual Assault Hotline: (713) 528-7273