A survivor shares story on teen dating violence - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

A survivor shares story on teen dating violence

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WSIL -- February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and it affects more students than some might think. Data shows that one in three high school students experience either physical or sexual violence, or both, by someone they are going out with. 

Sonya Clark, a Child Advocate Counselor for the Women's Center Domestic Abuse Program, is called in by area high schools to help students going through the issue. 

"My goal is to work with them to provide some emotional support to kind of help them through this process because it’s a lot that they go through and sometimes they don’t have the support, they don’t feel comfortable talking to a parent," she explains. 

Clark says abuse often starts with small signs of control such as telling the victim what they can wear and who they can spend time with. The behavior progressively gets worse, especially when the victim tries to leave the abuser. 

She adds that if victims do not seek help, they often end up in abusive relationships later in life, "They’ll end that one and walk right into another abusive relationship." 

A survivor who knows this all too well is Molly Harper, who got into an abusive relationship when she was 16 years old. "He had just gotten out of prison. He was 18 years old. I thought, for some odd reason, that was super cool," Harper recalls. 

Harper says the boyfriend manipulated her into doing thing she didn't want to, "He would make me take money from my parents so he could buy alcohol. He destroyed one of my brand new cars my parents had bought for me." 

Eventually breaking both of her arms and going back to prison, but not long after, Harper got into another abusive relationship. 

 He didn’t want me to have contact with anybody because he didn’t want the abuse to show," she says. "He didn’t want me to have contact with absolutely anybody to see what was going on behind closed doors." 

Harper lost her job and ended up in the ICU several times due to alcohol. After that, she decided that she had hit rock bottom and went to seek treatment. 

The now 28 years old, says looking back, she didn't want to be feel alone, "I wanted to be around somebody and I wanted to be around somebody that made me feel loved and needed." 

For teens seeking help, the Women's Center offers eight free counseling sessions with no parental consent required. Contact information can be found here

Parents, who believe their child is being abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend, can help find help here
 

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