Group looks to raise awareness about teen domestic violence

FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) -- An organization in Fremont is spearheading a new effort to stop domestic abuse in teenage relationships.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10 percent of high school students report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Tuesday the Fremont City Council issued a proclamation acknowledging the city's commitment to ending the violence. Staff with the Fremont non-profit group Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments or SAVE was on hand for the ceremony.

The group is dedicated to helping teens, their parents and educators spot dangerous dating behavior before it's too late.

"We go into the classrooms and we talk to the youth about identifying the differences between what makes a healthy versus an unhealthy versus an abusive situation," said Yasi Safinya-Davies with SAVE. "We help them discover the warning signs."

Safinya-Davies said that while domestic abuse among teenagers is not readily understood within an adult framework, it's pervasive.

She said the abuse appears to increasing as more harassment and name-calling takes place on the internet to by cell phone and text.

"If you can imagine you're getting a text at 2am at 3am at 4am" said Sainya-Davies. "It's a really, really strong intimidation tactic. It's part of the isolation process that we often see abusers doing to victims where they break down a person's resources, tear them away from their community, their family and their friends."

A group of teenaged girls from Mission San Jose High School in Fremont work with SAVE as peer counselors.

The teens told KTVU they have seen troubling behavior, from public ridicule to physical violence.

"They called each other rude things and they just made each other feel inferior," said 11th grader Neha Shah.

"There was a situation at our school where a girl physically harmed by her boyfriend," explained 12th grader Dinya Patel.

Advocates hope conversations about abusive dating among teenagers continue long past February, and bring out happy, healthy relationships.