VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - 1.5 million teens are a victim of dating violence, according to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project.
It's a startling statistic. While we often think of adults experiencing abuse by their partner, it's also an epidemic in teens.
"When I am teaching in a class, I usually say, 'Look around. Count yourselves off by three - every third one of you could be a victim,'" said Rebecca Headings, Primary Prevention Specialist with the Samaritan House in Virginia Beach.
Headings says dating abuse may actually begin as early as the 6th grade. These alarming numbers are exactly why she is speaking out as part of Teen Violence Awareness Month, with the goal of breaking the cycle.
"A youth could experience their first episode of being a perpetrator at age of 15 and may potentially become a perpetrator as an adult," said Headings.
According to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, a fourth of parents don't talk to their teens about violence with dating, perhaps missing obvious signs.
"Your child may be regressed; you could have a child filled with melancholy, a lessened spirit, maybe concerned about appearance or marks or bruises on them they can't explain," she said.
Headings encourages parents to talk to their children about abuse as early as elementary school.
"You are your best ally for your child. You know them best, so keep the lines of communication open," said Headings.
She also stressed to teens that love should never hurt.
"It starts with self love and positive self-esteem, so if you don't feel good about yourself, it is easy for someone to take advantage of you," she explained.
Lastly, stay vigilant.
"If you see something, say something. If something doesn't look right in your friend's relationship - whether they are victim or perpetrator - you really just want to stand up and say, 'I'm concerned for you,'" said Headings.
If you or someone you know is a victim of teen dating violence, check out some resources below: