Study: Abusive relationships beginning earlier with young teens


by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @MegCoyleKING

Posted on January 5, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 5 at 6:45 PM

SEATTLE -- According to a new study by the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusive relationships tend to start early on in age. 

Turns out nearly one-third of homicide victims met their abuser in their teenage years. And now the push is on to get the anti-violence message out to a much younger audience.

"He would beat me like a man until I did exactly what he wanted me to do," said Roberta Petersen, a domestic violence survivor. 

Petersen is a survivor of not just of one abusive relationship, but several, starting when she was only 15. 

"I remember thinking I was very lucky to get out. I probably would be dead if I stayed with him," she said.

Roberta's story supports a common thread in domestic violence homicides. 

"We found that young people don't get enough of that information and they don't get it early enough," said Jake Fawcett, who authored the study. "Our goal is to just learn as much as we can about these people's lives before the murder. Did the person who needed help call police, did they talk to friends, family, neighbors? Did someone at school know what was going on? And looking at those experiences really was a window for us into what's going on for people experiencing domestic violence across the board."

Fawcett and other victims' advocates are pushing for more programs, starting in middle school, where some teens have already seen it all. 

"One of my friends, she got beat really bad one day just because she wanted to look pretty. And he got really mad because he thought he owned her," said high school sophomore Alexiauna Beleford.

Roberta Petersen said more school outreach is only a start.

"Letting them know you're always there for them no matter what you're going through, I'm always here for you," Petersen advised parents.

The see the results of the study in their entirety, go to  Or call Washington's domestic violence hotline, 1-800-562-6025.