According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, one out of every three teenagers is physically or sexually abused by the person they are dating.
The numbers are harsh, but it is reality.
It has been 18 years since Ashley McCollum was raped by her high school boyfriend. The bruises have faded, but the emotional scars come back every time she shares her story.
Public speaking has become therapy. It is also a way to let others know "love is not abuse."
"It's just been such an amazing experience to be able to take something that was bad and turn it into something good," McCollum said.
Ashley was 17, when she found herself in an unhealthy relationship.
"He was very jealous, but I kind of found that flattering," McCollum said.
For a year, she thought a man controlling her life was natural, but one night everything changed.
Ashley was dancing with a friend at a party, when her boyfriend's jealousy turned into rage.
"He dragged me out of the party and later that night when we got back to my house he just started punching me and chocked me and bashed my head against the door," McCollum said. "He said he was trying to teach me a lesson and later that night he sexually assaulted me."
Ashley's world turned upside down. She was depressed, wouldn't eat, and just wanted to disappear. That's until she reached out for help.
"You can live through this, and you can heal from it, and you can go on to live a healthy life," McCollum said. "I didn't want anyone else to go through what I went through."
Ashley is making sure others know about teen dating violence. It's a subject experts say is usually considered taboo.
"It's something that often times we hesitate to talk about, often times attribute these behaviors to just being a teen," Linda Chandler with Twin City Mission Domestic Violence Services said. "It's not just being a teen, those teens are people."
Linda Chandler councils victims of dating violence. These teens have been physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually abused while in a dating relationship.
"It's ok to talk about this," Chandler said. "It's ok to reach out and get help."
The harsh reality is that many teenagers don't.
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 13 percent of teenage girls in relationships say they've been physically abused.
Only 33 percent of teenagers in an abusive relationship ask for help, and less than 25 percent of teens say they've talked about dating violence with their parents.
That's why Ashley McCollum steps in. She wants others to know you can ask for help and survive.
The Texas Council on Family Violence has released these pamphlets regarding dating violence.
For more information on teen dating violence, we recommend the following the websites. Just click on the links for more information.
Visit ACADV's website to see a Dating Bill of Rights and
curriculum for parents, and teen boys and girls.
The Center for Disease Control offers a downloadable fact sheet on Teen
Dating Abuse here.
Here a few early warning signs that the person your dating may become abusive:
Unpredictable mood swings
Alcohol and drug use
Isolates you from friends and family
Uses force during an argument
Believes in rigid sex roles
Blames others for his problems or feelings
Cruel to animals or children
Abused former partners
Parents, here are few common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence:
Physical signs of injury
Truancy, dropping out of school
Changes in mood or personality
Use of drugs/alcohol
If you have been a victim, break the silence and make the call today.
Twin City Mission Domestic Violence Services 24-hour hotline- 979-775-5355
Sexual Assault Resource Center- 979-731-1000
The National Domestic Violence Hotline- 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224
"If you would like to be involved in teen dating abuse prevention in Bryan-College Station, then call Laury Kasowski, Sexual Assault Resource Center, at 979-731-1000 or Sara Mendez, Brazos County
Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at 979-361-4440," McCollum said. "Participation in the Brazos County Coalition Against Domestic Violence is open to all community members interested in domestic violence and dating abuse issues in Brazos County. Visit www.bccadv.org for more information on the Coalition."
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