Laws cover victims of teen dating violence

Protective orders, emergency shelter now available

SAN ANTONIOThe P.E.A.C.E Initiative that helps victims of domestic violence, also reports seeing what happens when young love becomes dangerous.

"It's tough for adult women to question what is happening to them when they're being abused, so imagine how hard it is for a young person," said Patricia Castillo, the group's executive director.

But Castillo said at least now, there are state laws on the books for minors needing protective orders or emergency shelter, without parental permission.

"They now can stay in the Battered Women's Shelter, even though it's just a teen relationship. They can get protective orders," Castillo said.

She said many are involved in abusive, long-term relationships, even at a young age.

Castillo said they react "with a youthful mind, with a mind that doesn't have the information they need."

"Every school district, every group that works with young people needs to be talking to about violence in their relationships," Castillo said.

She said there are state and national resources (( two links sent earlier )) that can help them develop programs and campaigns.

Castillo also said the national teen dating hotline is 1-866-331-9474.

She said her agency was even contacted last semester by Brackenridge High School,  their neighbor across the street about developing a campaign to increase awareness among its students.

Castillo said Brackenridge students made posters with potentially life-saving messages that went up all over campus, plus airing their own public service announcements at the school.

"That's the kind of work that needs to be happening all over our city, with all of our young people," Castillo said.

She also urges parents to find help if they're having trouble getting through to their teenagers, as young as middle school.

"Know who they're dating, meet their parents," Castillo said.

But she said parents also should be on guard, even if they think their children are not dating.

"Know what your children are up to because these kids hide stuff like you cannot believe," Castillo said.

Besides monitoring their cell phone, texting and on-line use, Castillo said parents need to  keep an eye out for possible injuries, changes in personality, grades falling, or stopping extra-curricular activities.

She said being that they're young, they are easily intimidated into silence.

Castillo said they blame themselves for the abuse.

She said too often they say, "He hit me. If I had just shut up, if I had not gone out with my friends, if I had just done what he told me, then this would not have happened."

Castillo said without intervention by parents or trusted adults, they are vulnerable "to abuse, to control, to manipulate, to dominate and to kill."

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