11 News Exclusive - Cheyenne Corbett: Her Story - The Broader Issue

By: Lisa McDivitt Email
By: Lisa McDivitt Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - One of the reasons why Cheyenne Corbett sat down with 11 News was with the hope that other families can learn from her story, and that other teens might not make the same mistakes she did.

“Neonaticide is the killing of a newborn baby,” says Suzanne Pinto, a forensic psychologist based in Boulder, Colo., who has worked on several neonaticide cases involving teens. “In cases like this one, we sometimes call them toilet bowl babies, because it's passive death, rather than active murder. The baby dies, that's true, but it's under different circumstances."

"I hate to say this,” says Cheyenne, “but it could happen to anyone."

According to a 2004 study from the University of California at Berkley, neonaticide is not a new phenomenon. These cases have been documented for centuries. They straddle different countries, and different socioeconomic classes.

"These are girls that are often young, they're naïve, they're very out of touch with their bodies, based on their religious upbringing," says Pinto.

In 2006, Cheyenne became the second teen in Mesa County to be arrested for killing her newborn. Dr. Pinto evaluated Cheyenne a few months after she was charged for the crime.

"In Cheyenne's case, it was partial denial,” says Pinto. “Some kids absolutely have put out of their heads. When that happens, these girls either have no concept of the 9 months, the amount of time, or they really distort the reality of it. And often their denial is so strong that other people go along with the denial."

In the weeks that followed the news of Cheyenne's baby's death, a lot of attention was given to the safe-haven law, which has been in effect in Colorado since 2004.

This provides a safety net for new parents who don't feel fit to take care of a baby. The problem is, most teens don't think to take advantage of it.

"I see a lot of cases like this, and I've never heard a teenager bring that up as an option,” says Pinto. “Most teenagers don't even think of birth control."

In fact, since it was enacted, the safe-haven law has been used only three times in Mesa County - none of those instances were teenage mothers.

In addition, Pinto says new teen mothers who have these unattended births are in no position to make good decisions.

"All of the blood rushes to your cervix,” says Pinto. “You become spacey, disoriented, and this is why we put people in hospitals."

These teen girls often have no support from the teen father, so the teen mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

"He was just as scared as I was,” says Cheyenne. “I never blamed him and I never will. It wasn't his fault. In the end it was my responsibility."

Pinto says, these cases of neonaticide are more effectively prevented by focusing on communication with the teens before they get pregnant.

"What we have to do so this doesn't happen is we have to do education,” says Pinto. “We can educate people about choices better. I think we can look for more supportive, open communication."

Or, Pinto adds, by forcing them to get help during the pregnancy. "Nobody just took her up short and said yes you are. You are pregnant and we're going to do something about that now."

For Cheyenne, she says that the part she regrets is having kept her pregnancy a secret from the people who could help her.

"I told a lot of my friends about it,” says Cheyenne. “But I didn't tell someone in a position of authority, someone who could have helped."

Part 4: Advice for teens and families

On 11 New Live Today, life coach Sheri Fisher sat down with Lisa McDivitt to discuss ways parents can talk to their teens.

She suggests that parents consider the following things when talking to pre-teens and teenagers:
* Setting boundaries
* Explaining expectations for behavior
* Knowing kids’ friends and their friends’ parents
* Educating kids so they are working with the facts
* Being vigilant to stay on top of what’s happening in a kid’s life

And tips for having the “sex talk” with teens:
* It’s not one big talk that you have and then never talk about it
again. It’s a series of mini-conversations to keep the lines of
communication open and to help the parent monitor what’s going on for them
regarding sex, drugs, friends, school, etc.
* Opening the lines of communication by actively listening, not
judging, asking questions, being interested, informing, caring etc.

For teens who feel like they just can’t talk to a parent, there are several resources around Mesa County that can help teens get guidance and make positive decisions as they navigate growing up. Links to some of those resources are listed below.

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