Ten Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Ten Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

  • History of discipline problems.
  • Blames you for his/her anger.
  • Serious drug or alcohol use.
  • History of violent behavior.
  • Threatens others regularly.
  • Insults you or calls you names.
  • Trouble controlling feelings like anger.
  • Tells you what to wear, what to do or how to act.
  • Threatens or intimidates you in order to get their way.
  • Prevents you from spending time with friends or family.

Could you be in an abusive relationship?
Create a Safety Plan!

  • Do you know an adult that you can trust?
  • Plan in advance to have a safe place to go.
  • Keep money and your cell phone or calling card with you at all times.
  • Memorize important phone numbers – cell phones are sometimes taken by abusers.
  • Establish a code word or sign so that family, friends, teachers and co-workers know when to call for help.
(TTY for deaf/hearing impaired)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

via “Jennifer Ann’s Group”


Francesca’s Story

* Note from The Hotline: Special thanks to Francesca for bravely sharing her story with us.*

Living with a man like my ex-husband is like having a gun pointed at your head every single day, and you just don’t know when the gun is going to go off.

I am writing to tell my story – of how I have been a victim and survivor of repeated, relentless domestic violence – and to bring the weaknesses in the justice system and the general lack of knowledge in the community about domestic violence to your attention.

I married my ex-husband in October of 2005 thinking that he was a kind, gentle, compassionate, and caring man. Not until I was pregnant with our child did I see his true character. When I was about six months pregnant, he slapped me across my face, leaving me with a black eye and knocking me to the ground. Luckily nothing happened to my baby, but the abuse did not end there. At the time, I was living in Ecuador. I was trapped and scared.

My daughter was born in June of 2007, and we traveled to the U.S. permanently in August of 2007. Once there he did not hold back. Just three weeks after arriving in the U.S., there had already been three calls made to the police on domestic disputes, and he was arrested after battering me while I had our infant daughter in my arms. As I tried to call 9-1-1, he ripped the phone cord out of the wall. He threatened me that if I testified against him that he would kill me, and I believed him.

Rape was a regular occurrence in our home, and I cannot count the number of times I laid in bed crying as he raped me. He also strangled me on a regular basis, slammed my head into the walls of our home, leaving large holes, tortured me sexually, mentally, psychologically, and ruined me financially.

He hit our three your old daughter in the face, leaving a large bruise, then kept her home from day care for several days until the bruise was no longer visible. He put her head through our bathroom wall, which was reported to the Illinois DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services). DCFS decided that he did, in fact, abuse our daughter, but they did not pursue the case any further.

I tried so hard to protect her from him, but every time he would hit her, I would step in, and receive my own beating on her behalf. I did not report it since I was sure he would kill me or kidnap my daughter if I did.

Perhaps one of the worst parts of this whole story is that he almost killed me. Actually, he did kill me, but thankfully doctors were able to revive me. In this particular incident we were involved in a heated discussion because I had to leave Ecuador to return to the U.S. for medical school and my graduate work in biochemistry. He had not obtained a visa to come to the U.S. at that point, and threatened to divorce me if I did not stay with him in Ecuador. He grabbed my wrists, screamed at me, and then threatened me with a screwdriver. I walked home knowing that I would divorce him, and knowing that I had a flight back to the U.S. in about three days. I laid down to take a nap, and did not wake up until four days later.

I was on a ventilator in the hospital, and they informed me that I had undergone cardiac arrest on several occasions. The coma was so profound that I received the lowest rating on the Glasgow coma scale. It is truly a miracle that I survived.

It is my firm belief that my ex-husband poisoned me with scopolamine, a common date rape drug in parts of Latin America. He called my medical school and told them I had tried to kill myself, instead of giving them the true story, which then led to me being expelled from school. He has sabotaged my career, my jobs, did not allow me to have any friends or family in my life, destroyed my home and beat my pets

When I have told my story to friends and family, a few people’s reaction is to ask why I didn’t leave sooner, or they simply don’t believe me at all. It is a shock to me how undereducated the public is on domestic violence.

People do not understand how difficult it is to escape. It is almost impossible to gather evidence, because the abuser will find a way to destroy it. No one on the outside knows what is happening because the abuser has the victim trapped and alone. He cuts her off from all outside interaction, and attempts to control her mind, and in many cases, he is successful.

If a woman does manage to escape, the justice system does little to help or protect her. I have had a domestic violence advocate tell me that there is only a 50/50 chance that someone will get convicted of domestic battery in my county, even in cases where there are bloody pictures, good witnesses, hospital reports, and other evidence. This is why women cannot simply just walk out the door. It is a real life or death risk to leave a man that believes he owns you. You could, and many have, die in the process. 4 out of 5 deaths due to domestic battery occur when a woman tries to leave.

I am asking for your help to educate the public on these issues. Women are beaten every day by their husbands, and it is a misdemeanor. You can get a felony charge for getting in a bar fight, but if you beat your wife, the justice system is sending a message that you will only get a slap on the wrist, if even that.

One of the most difficult problems I think battered women and children face is that the abuser isolates the victim to the point where most of the time there are no eyewitnesses. Because of this, it makes these cases very difficult to prosecute, but even worse, it makes the state’s attorney’s office reluctant to even pursue it because they see it as a waste of money and resources.

Domestic violence is NOT a family matter. It is everyone’s business. It affects us all even if we are not directly abused. Women should be able to speak out against their abusers. They should be able to bring their abusers to justice. The public should be educated about what it means to be battered, and why it is so difficult to escape. With stiffer punishments, and better prevention, many women would be able to leave sooner. PLEASE help me and all women fight for what is fundamentally right.

via  The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Tax Relief for Survivors

March 10, 2014 – by 


Tax season is no one’s favorite time of the year – and an abusive relationship (whether you’re in one, planning on leaving, or have recently left) complicates it even further.

Fortunately, there are a few economic resources that can be powerful tools in changing your circumstances for the better. Filing tax returns and seeking income tax credit refunds can help you pull together funds that may be needed to leave an abusive relationship or begin financial independence after leaving.

This may seem like a difficult process, but it’s doable! If you’re not familiar with filing taxes, check out the Get Help section at the bottom of this post for resources.

When and why should you file a tax return?

  • When you have a certain amount of income – either your own or, if married, the income of a spouse
  • To receive tax benefits (i.e. refund or tax credits)
  • To establish a separate tax “existence” from a spouse or ex
  • To help save up money (ex. if you’re planning on leaving)

Concerns about tax refunds

What are your rights?

  • To see and understand the entire return before signing a joint return
  • To refuse to sign a joint return (married people don’t have to file together)
  • To request an automatic 4-month extension of time to file
  • To get copies of prior year returns from the IRS

Three Federal Tax Credits You May be Eligible For:

1) Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  • This is a wage supplement for low- and moderate-income workers.
  • You must have some earned income.
  • You must be a citizen, legal resident, or be married to one.
  • You must have a valid SSN.
  • Can claim this if you file as “Married Filing Jointly,” “Single,” “Head of Household,” but NOT “Married Filing Separately”
  • To claim children with this, the child must be related, adopted or a foster child. The child must live with you for over half the year. The child must be under 19 (24 if a student, and no age limit if disabled)
  • EITC is not counted as income in most public benefit programs including: TANF, SSI, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP, and federally assisted housing. Receipt of the credit will not affect your eligibility for such benefits. Read more about keeping your benefits.

2) Child Tax Credit

  • This is intended to help offset some costs of raising children.
  • You can claim up to $1,000 per child. The child must be claimed as a dependent, and the age limit is 17.
  • Married survivors can file jointly or separately.
  • If you don’t owe enough taxes to use all of the Child Tax Credit, you may be eligible for a refund.

3) Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

  • This can help you meet your child and dependent care expenses.
  • The care has to be employment-related (If money was spent on childcare while a parent was working or looking for work)
  • The percentage of eligible expenses you can claim is based on adjusted gross income.

Three Types of Relief You May Be Eligible For:

1) Innocent Spouse Relief
If you’re faced with tax debt or burden because of something your spouse did wrong on a jointly filed tax return, you could be eligible for this. There are different categories and different procedures for filing.

2) Relief By Separation
This involves separating the understatement of tax (plus interest and penalties) on your joint return between you and your (former or current) spouse

3) Equitable Relief
You may still be relieved of responsibility for tax/interest/penalties through this type of relief if you are not eligible for the other types.

Get Help

Further Resources

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so we encourage you to consult the resources in this post and take advantage of the programs designed to help with your situation. While our advocates at the hotline are not able to give legal or tax advice, we can talk to you about what’s going on, discuss possible courses of action, and refer you to the best resources for legal help. Feel free to give us a call anytime, 24/7, at 1-800-799-7233.

via The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Our Life Was Once Chaotic…

Our life was once chaotic

“He thought he could destroy us. He thought we wouldn’t make it this far.  He thought he had total control. He thought we were less than him.  He thought I would never leave him. He thought wrong.  My little one and I have been so much happier than we have ever been.  Life Goes on! To be continued . . .”   DV Survivor

Domestic Violence Survivor Driven by Past to Create Change

February 19, 2014
by Susan Shimotsu
Amanda Tenorio, left, with Col. Gregory D. Gadson, base commander at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, after she spoke at the base’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation kick-off ceremony in 2012.

A single mother of two separated from her husband, Amanda Tenorio thought she found her “Prince Charming” – a new man who immediately swept her off her feet. Little did she know that the next 13 months would be filled with pain, abuse, hospitalizations and more at the hands of an abusive boyfriend.

Tenorio thought dating had started out well, but before she knew it, her boyfriend began controlling her every move, including what she did with her car, her phone and her money. After three months of this control and verbal abuse, Tenorio’s boyfriend began physically assaulting her, including shoving her against walls, spitting at her and grabbing her so hard her arms would bruise from his fingers.

“While in hindsight I should’ve left immediately, I had become emotionally attached to this man and was beginning to fall in love with him,” said Tenorio, a graduate student in the Virtual Academic Center of the USC School of Social Work. “Because I had already been married and didn’t want to keep playing the dating game, I was determined to do whatever it took to make the relationship work.”

That would turn out to be an ill-fated decision, but not an uncommon one for victims of domestic violence. That’s one of the many reasons why Tenorio decided to turn her traumatic experience into a positive one and help others in similar situations. She started working as a victim advocate before enrolling in the School of Social Work’s web-based MSW@USC program, which allows her to earn a Master of Social Work while continuing her advocacy work at home in Virginia.

“Being a victim of domestic violence has given me a perspective that only someone who has lived through abuse can truly understand,” Tenorio said.

In May 2009, Tenorio and her abuser were set to celebrate their birthdays—only two days apart—when they began arguing. That argument turned into him beating Tenorio for 14 hours while her two children were in the next bedroom. Finally fed up, Tenorio packed her boyfriend’s bags and told him to leave her home, which triggered a brutal assault with a metal towel rack, after which her abuser nearly broke her hip bone, broke her nose from trying to suffocate her and then strangled her until she lost consciousness.

“I really thought asking him to leave would’ve been that simple,” Tenorio said. “This would be the beginning of a long series of assaults, each with me trying to find a way to safely escape, but being unsuccessful every time.”

Terrified to tell anyone what was happening to her, Tenorio lied on the witness stand when her boyfriend was arrested for domestic assault, testifying that he was not the person who had hurt her. The charges were subsequently dropped and a week later, her boyfriend beat Tenorio into a coma.

“At that point, I decided it was safer for me to stay in the relationship than trying to leave him because it would just result in more beatings,” said Tenorio, who was convicted of filing a false police report once she was discharged. “It broke my heart to send my daughter away to live with my mother, but I knew I had to stay strong for my son, who remained with me and eventually became a punching bag, too.”

Eight more months of almost daily beatings and seeing her son tortured, as well culminated in a hospitalization in February 2010, when Tenorio’s abuser attacked her with a mop, nearly paralyzing her. But Tenorio, again very much afraid, decided to leave the hospital when the police came to take her statement.

When she returned home, her abuser was waiting with a baseball bat to punish her for leaving the house and trying to get help. Tenorio spent the next two weeks locked in her home, her every move monitored, and was unable to use the phone.

On Feb. 22, a concerned domestic violence investigator left a card on Tenorio’s door, and her boyfriend once again brutally assaulted her because he thought she was working with the police. Around this time, local Det. Melissa Wallace began to reach out to her by phone to see if she could convince Tenorio to leave and get help.

“I had actually met Amanda in the summer of 2009 after an attack left her hospitalized,” said Wallace. “She minimized the incident, called it a big misunderstanding and took most of the blame upon herself. The officer who responded to the February 2010 hospitalization was appalled at her injuries and asked me to follow up with her, but she still refused to turn in her abuser.”

Tenorio’s abuser actually heard part of this conversation and beat her once again after hanging up on Wallace. On Feb. 23, Tenorio was finally able to flee her home, running as fast as she could to a neighbor’s house and immediately calling 911.

She never returned to her abuser after that.

Shortly after the 911 call, Tenorio returned to the hospital and began working with the police department’s domestic violence investigators and was taken to a safe house until her abuser was arrested. Convicted in both Maryland and Virginia, he is currently serving up to 55 years in prison for malicious wounding, second-degree assault and kidnapping. His sentence in Maryland (40 years) is the longest in state history for a domestic violence crime.

While Tenorio credits Wallace with saving her life, Wallace is quick to commend Tenorio for her bravery once she decided to tell the truth about her abuser.

“This was the worst case of domestic abuse I had ever seen,” said Wallace. “I pushed hard for her case because I knew that she was finally ready to move forward and would need help in doing so because she had no access to any resources, such as a job, money, family or place to live. She saved her own life when she finally had the courage to come forward.”

Tenorio wanted to help other victims of domestic violence and began volunteering with these programs and agencies in 2010. By 2012, she began working in the field, first as a victims advocate in the military.

“I know what it is like to be victimized by a person who claims to love you and by a system that fails you,” Tenorio said. “Because of my experience, both with my abusive boyfriend and with the legal system, I wanted to make a change for other victims.”

Just a few months into working in social work, Tenorio decided to further her education and pursue an MSW at USC. With the Virtual Academic Center (VAC), she found the perfect solution to getting a quality education without uprooting her kids and leaving her advocacy relationships behind in Virginia.

“USC is one of the best schools in the country, and a top social work school,” said Tenorio, who is now in her third semester of the part-time program. “When I heard about the VAC, I knew I had found the perfect MSW program for me. Working full-time, having two very active kids, and doing all of the speaking that I do on my own time meant that I needed something with some flexibility.”

By focusing her studies in the school’s Community Organization, Planning and Administration concentration, Tenorio hopes to advocate for policy change around domestic violence. She has begun meeting with local, state and national political representatives to talk to them about the gaps that need to be filled in domestic violence policy.

Harry Hunter Jr., who taught Tenorio’s class on social policy analysis, said he can see her moving into a legislative role, advocating for effective services and resources for vulnerable women and children.

“Amanda is such a talented student who not only is passionate about her career choice but also wants to learn and engage in critical thinking to expand her skill set,” said Hunter. “She has previously shared to my classes how she has found her niche as an advocate for changes to laws and other institutional barriers that are ineffective in helping women leave their abusers. I believe that Amanda will be an excellent social worker and will have a tremendously positive influence on the lives of her clients or constituents.”

In addition to speaking at events, Tenorio recently appeared on “Let’s Talk Live,” a talk show in the Washington, D.C., area to tell her story, show people how domestic violence victims do not have any universal traits, and encourage victims to not stay silent.

“Going on live TV to share my story was a huge stride for me and for the cause,” said Tenorio. “There are so many stereotypes about what a domestic violence victim looks like or who they are, that many victims go unnoticed because they don’t fit this image. I want people to see my face, hear my story, and remember that when they think about domestic violence. Because I was silent for so long, I want other victims to see what can happen—a potentially happy ending—when you finally speak out.”

One of the lingering issues from the abuse that remained with Tenorio was her conviction for filing a false police report. With a criminal record looming over her head, Tenorio decided to fight it. An attorney offered to take her case pro bono and has filed a petition with the governor of Virginia to ask for a pardon, which was granted earlier this year.

While Tenorio is making her way through the MSW program, she continues to work full-time and raise her two children. In January 2014, she became the case manager of the new Domestic Violence Supportive Housing program in Virginia. She also presents at many different fundraisers, galas, charity events, conferences and trainings.

“I never realized how comfortable I am speaking to any size audience until I first tried it,” said Tenorio, who has trained judges, lawyers, clergy leaders and more on how to treat domestic violence victims in the Washington, D.C., area. “Domestic violence is such a personal issue to me. My goal is to make a large cultural and social change on how society perceives it and how they deal with it. Ultimately, I want to see domestic violence eradicated.”

via USC School of Social Work