Dating Violence Victims Seem to be Getting Younger

Nacogdoches alternative school teacher Michelle Gaut said, "I worked at a middle school last year and I would pick up notes off the floor and it's really amazing how serious the kids are taking relationships when they are 12 or 13 years old."

Not only are students starting to date at a younger age, they are also being more open about their relationships. Michelle Gaut believes domestic abuse among young teens is becoming more socially acceptable because many middle and high school students equate violence and aggression with respect.

"Movies and songs and things on TV make it seem like [dating violence] is a normal thing to them, and so you end up with the kids having an attitude like 'hey, if my girl disses me or starts bugging me or leaves me, then she better watch out'. So, I'd say we have a lot of work to do."

A recent study shows about 89 percent of kids ages 13 to 18 are dating or have dated. The Women's Shelter of East Texas gears educational programs to focus on dating violence among middle and high school students.

Violence Prevention Coordinator Judy May said the goal is to offer prevention, rather than intervention.

"Maybe he's very popular, she's very popular, and they're such a cute couple," said May. "That's what you hear a lot of kids say - you are the cutest couple on school and maybe she worries about not having a date to the prom [or] not having a boyfriend."

If you know someone who's in an abusive relationship, call the Women's Shelter of East Texas at 1-800-828-7233.