February marks Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It is a national initiative to shine a light on dating abuse among young people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three teens in the United States experiences physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from someone they are dating.
A dating violence survivor who we'll refer to as "Monica" for safety purposes shared her story of survival. Monica is not a teenager but felt it important to share her story, hopeful it will keep at least one teenager on the right path.
Monica said she and her six-year-old daughter are lucky to be alive. The pair moved to Killeen a few months ago to start a new life with Monica's boyfriend "Paul" who she said is a drunk and verbally aggressive. Monica knew she should leave the relationship but gave things one more chance.
"I said let me put in more effort, let me just give this a chance and really try," Monica said.
However, one night, the abuse turned physical. Monica cooked some fish for dinner, Paul came home that night drunk and upset with the smell.
"He grabbed me by my throat, bashed my head against the wall, he was chocking me, I could not breathe. I was crying I was just hoping and praying my baby didn't come in there," Monica said.
However, her daughter did come into the room startled by the commotion, that's when she said Paul grabbed the child to try and keep them from leaving.
"He's pushing the door to keep me out while I'm pushing the door to get my baby. She's screaming and crying, I grab her and we take off. He starts hitting me again and my daughter says just leave my mommy alone, I'm like just leave me alone," Monica said.
Monica and her daughter eventually escaped and called the police who arrested Paul. The officers helped Monica get into 'Teach Them to Love Outreach Ministries,' a resource for dating violence victims. Lolita Gilmore, the organization's executive director said it's important parents talk to their teens now to prevent a lifetime of pain.
"Love shouldn't hurt, you shouldn't be afraid and you shouldn't be afraid to tell your parents. A lot of times it's happening right under our noses. Right now children are learning what is happening in the home and how to have relationships, we need to show them what a healthy relationship looks like," Gilmore said.
Gilmore also said warning signs to look out for include the teen isolating their partner from family and friends, demanding their social media passwords, and being overly jealous.
Thanks to the program Monica and her daughter are receiving food, shelter, counseling, job assistance and so much more. Monica wants teens to know violence should never be tolerated, especially by someone you love.
"You're living in fear, you're having someone physically hurt you, emotionally hurt you and that's no way to live that's not love and that's not life and you should want more than that," Monica said.
Teach Them to Love Outreach Ministries is holding a 'Shades of Purple' Domestic Violence Awareness Ball March 17 from 5- 8 p.m.
The ball will take place at the Fort Hood Officers Club: Bldg 5764, 24th St. and Wainright Fort Hood, Tx 76544.
For more information about the ball or Teach Them to Love Outreach Ministries go here.
For more information about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month go here