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Prevention programs can help reduce teen dating violence

“I saw all the good things in the very beginning,” says Erika Kura. As a high school freshman, she felt flattered when a popular senior boy said she was beautiful. “He could make me laugh, and he was charming,” she recalls.

After they were in a relationship, Kura began to see the bad. The boy pressured her to do sexual things, even if she felt unsure or said no. Sometimes, she felt she had to give in. If she didn’t, for example, he might leave her somewhere without a ride home. At times, he got her drunk and then took advantage of her. At other times the older teen insulted her by comparing her body to others’. Or, he deliberately let her see him snuggling up with another girl.

Her abuser wheedled his way into her social group. He cozied up to her mother and brother, too. Kura felt she couldn’t tell others how he treated her, because they all liked him. And if she tried to talk with him about these problems, the boy blamed her. Or, he acted like she was crazy. Afterward he’d act sweet for a while. Then the abuse resumed.

“This messes with you,” Kura says. For a while she had an eating disorder. She even thought about suicide. After about a year and a half, she broke up with the older teen. For years afterward, though, he kept trying to get back into her life. She wound up going to the police. The young man’s arrest for an unrelated crime finally ended his attempts to contact her.

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