Woman shares hope for teen victims of dating violence

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Black eyes, broken bones, intimidation, even sexual abuse. Approximately one in five high school girls report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association.

February is Teen Violence Awareness Month, and while on Thursday many people will be showered with roses, chocolates and memories of shared love, others will endure another day of abuse.

FOX 4 spoke with a woman who said dating violence for her began in her teens and didn't end until her 40s when she finally sought help from a women's shelter.

"I grew up thinking that the only way someone would love me is if they were mean to me," said Debbra Hubbard.

For Hubbard, dating violence was a vicious cycle that began at a very young age. High school boyfriends isolated her.

"He knew that he had that control, so he knew I wasn't going anywhere because I didn't feel that I was worthy of having anybody better," she said.

Those same boys then used words to intimidate her and their hands to beat her.

"I've had black eyes, broken bones. I was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend -- literally tied up and physically assaulted," Hubbard said.

Each boyfriend would then tell her he was sorry, that it would never happen again.
Hubbard said that is never the case.

"One time is going to be 10, 11, 12 and then sometimes you die," she said. "Literally."

Four times, Hubbard said, she thought she was going to die at the hands of someone she loved and who she thought loved her.

"It was like I was wearing a bubble that said, 'Okay, beat me. I'm not worthy of anything better,'" she said.

Not once did Hubbard tell anyone. She didn't call the police or press charges -- until two years ago when she left the hospital and enough was finally enough.

"Look at me now. See what you missed out on? See this beautiful rose that you tried to end," she says to the boys and men who for so long held her down.

Hubbard now works at Kansas City's Newhouse, a new beginning for abused women and their children.

"I think the statistics are startling," she said. "In Newhouse, what we know is that 1 in 3 teen girls will be a victim of dating violence and that teens really think of it in different terms," said Bridgette Mavec, Newhouse's VP of Clinical Services.

Newhouse is a new beginning for Hubbard and she hopes for the many women and teens who are experiencing what she once lived.

"Love doesn't hurt. Love is not supposed to hurt," she said.

Newhouse said it's very important for parents to look for signs and listen to their children. It's also very important to seek help from the outside.

"Teens have that natural, kind of, combative relationship with their parents," Mavec said. "They are trying to separate themselves and be independent, so they don't tell their parents a lot of things. The most important thing is to not make it a power struggle, and that if they say you will not see this person again, they can sometimes inadvertently push that person toward that person."

Newhouse has a website for both battered women and teenagers www.newhouseshelter.org and www.newhouse4teens.org.

They are also hosting an event on February 28 called Wounds that Heal where parents and teens can learn about teen dating violence and enjoy healing and hope and inspired artwork by local artists and poets. The event is being held at the Leopold Gallery, 324 West 63rd Street, Kansas City, Missouri from 6-8 p.m.

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