Local shelter trying to help teens recognize warning signs of a bad relationship

Local domestic violence shelter educating teens

TAMPA - Dating violence is a subject many teenagers do not talk about, however, the numbers tell a startling story.

That is why The Spring of Tampa Bay is working with students. The domestic violence shelter hopes teens can recognize the warning signs of a bad relationship.

A teenage girl that is in a new public service announcement is in love with a boy that controls her. When she is not around him, he will text her, call her, even Skype with her.

It is a story college student, Brooks Hier, can relate to.

"We were constantly texting," Hier said.

For nearly two years, Hier felt like she was on a leash.

"At one point it was like, I was constantly on a thread," Hier said.

The pulling and control that Hier talks about is something that The Spring of Tampa Bay is trying to get teens to recognize. What may first seem like romance, in reality, could be abuse.

"One in three young people report having been abused or physically assaulted in their teen dating experience," Brenda Rouse, with The Spring said.

The numbers are startling, but Rouse hopes that The Spring's "I Own Me" campaign, and close work with three area high schools, can decrease those statistics.

"When I do presentations in high schools and I go through the 17 warning signs, they start seeing that their relationship isn't healthy," Rouse said.

As a domestic violence shelter, The Spring helps many adults who have been in abusive, even deadly relationships. However, the shelter believes working with teens now can prevent toxic relationships from forming in the future. Here are some of the warning signs:

"Someone that controls what you wear, who you see, where you go, constantly calling you, texting you, where are you, you need to call me as soon as you get this," Rouse said.

Thankfully for Hier, her family and friends knew something was not right.

"I've always been a very social person and I had lost a lot of my friends," Hier said.

Her mom urged her to see someone else.

The constant fighting eventually led to a mutual break up.

"By the end, we had a fight every day and it was exhausting," Hier said.

Looking back, Hier says she has learned a lot. She now hopes other teens can learn from her story, and the story of the girl seen in the public service announcement.

"I think that people need to tell people, know the signs, and know what can go wrong from a relationship," Hier said.

The Spring, hopes to take the "I Own Me," campaign into more schools in the fall.

If you want to talk with someone about teen dating violence or the warning signs, you can call 813-247-SAFE.

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