HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -Too many teens are physically attacked by the person who is supposed to love them, and February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Cheri Hewlett said her first serious relationship was at 16-years-old and by 19-year-old she had two children to the man who was older than her.
She said the abuse would escalate when she was pregnant.
“I had been hospitalized several times, broken ribs, fractured cheekbones, punctured ear drums and tons of black eyes,” said Hewlett. “It was very much a physical abuse, but it was also very, very emotionally and mentally abusive because I had nothing.
With nowhere to go, she said she tried to leave her abuser, but came back several times. She said the final straw happened when she woke up from being beat unconscious in an ambulance with her two kids strapped next to her in the vehicle.
“I went back to the house, I grabbed a few diapers and things that I could fit in my car and for the next six months we lived in my automobile,” said Hewlett.
She said it was difficult being homeless but she was eventually able to pull herself up.
Today she’s a Certified Public Account with her own firm and involved in real estate investment. She is also the Treasurer of the G.R.O.W. Foundation – a nonprofit that aims to help domestic violence victims. The founder and C.E.O. Neisha Himes said too many teens are facing dating violence.
She said many times when people think about domestic violence they believe it is something that happens between adults who live together or have children together. “That's not necessarily the case. It's a lot of our youth, who are experiencing it.”
According to the CDC: “It affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that:
-Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.
-About 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.
-26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.
-The burden of Teen Dating Violence is not shared equally across all groups—sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence, and some racial/ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by many types of violence.
“I think the media, whether it's social media on TV or whatever, that toxicity is normalized a lot of times,” said Himes. She said teens are looking at fighting or harassment and deem it to be normal behavior when it is actually abuse.
According to the group Love Is Respect, warning signs include:
-Checking your phone, email, or social media accounts without your permission.
-Putting you down frequently, especially in front of others.
-Isolating you from friends or family (physically, financially, or emotionally).
-Extreme jealousy or insecurity.
-Explosive outbursts, temper, or mood swings.
-Any form of physical harm.
-Possessiveness or controlling behavior.
-Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex.
The G.R.O.W. Foundation is hosting a virtual event for parents and teens to learn more about this issue at 1 p.m. on February 20.
To sign up, click here.
For more resources: