Digital Domestic Violence Can Often Lead To Frightening Results

DENVER (CBS4) – Experts are closely watching a new trend of relationship violence that starts online.

A Denver teen who wants to remain anonymous says she was in an abusive relationship and claims the abuse started on social media.

This 16-year-old we are calling “Cristina” says she grew up in an abusive household. She would try to shield her mother from her father’s blows as a child.

Cristina says “it was every single day. I would see my mom get beaten when I was a little kid.” And her worst fear was getting into a physically abusive relationship, but she did.

It happened after Cristina’s boyfriend started attacking her on social media. She says her boyfriend would text her repeatedly and send her an abundance of Facebook messages. He could track where she was through social media in some instances.

One day after ignoring his messages, Cristina’s boyfriend came to her house, grabbed her arm and wouldn’t let go. That vice-like grip was a wakeup call. Cristina says she didn’t want to be another victim like her mom.

CBS4's Britt Moreno interviews "Cristina" (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Britt Moreno interviews “Cristina” (credit: CBS)

Dating violence on social media can escalate to physical abuse. A spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline told CBS4 one in four teens is abused or harassed online, and those victims are then two times more likely to be physically abused.

Cristina sought help from a Denver organization called Project Pave. Project Pave partners with elementary, middle and high schools in the Denver metro area and educates kids on healthy relationships. Their goal is prevent physically abusive relationships.

Much of their discussion now centers around social media.

Pave employee Adam Evans says “trends we know around relationship violence are making their way in social media aspects and there is always some (new app) popping up.”

That’s why he says, it’s tough for parents to monitor.

In North High School, students can take elective courses with Pave.

Social worker Diane Ulmer says students there are benefiting because enrollment is up and in-school suspension is down.

She says, “we have definitely seen an increase in overall positive learning environment.”

Additional Resources

For more information on Project Pave go to projectpave.org.

Britt Moreno anchors the CBS4 morning and noon newscasts and is the Wednesday’s Child reporter. She loves hearing from viewers. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @brittmorenotv.

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