Forty-seven percent of teens said they had been victimized personally by controlling behaviors from a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to a study by Liz Claiborne Inc. and the Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Nearly one in three teens in the study reported sexual or physical abuse or threats.
And while the abuse can happen in person, this digitally savvy generation has discovered the power to communicate instantly also can be used to abuse. Twenty-four percent reported that they had been victimized with technology by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the study.
Parents of abuse victims plan to bring light to the frightening statistics at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today. Testimony from teens is scheduled for the hearing, too.
Parents like Bill and Michele Mitchell of Columbia, Md., hope the testimony will put a face on the statistics and help save others from a fate similar to the one their daughter suffered.
Though the Mitchells will not testify at the hearing, they said they will appear at the press conference announcing the study's results today.
Just three weeks after the Mitchells celebrated their daughter Kristin's graduation from Saint Joseph's University in 2005, the 21-year-old was murdered.
"The last time that I saw her alive was the day I met the guy that did it," Bill Mitchell said.
Kristin Mitchell's parents said they were unaware that their daughter was in a relationship with a possessive and controlling boyfriend.
"You know, there's some issues, but we had no idea anything like this," Michele Mitchell said.
The violence ended on June 3, 2005, when Kristin Mitchell died after being brutally attacked.
She was stabbed 55 times. Her parents never saw it coming.
"You find out what happened and then the next day you're in the funeral home making arrangements. You're picking out caskets," Michele Mitchell said.
But Kristin Mitchell's story is not unique.
Like Kristin Mitchell, 19-year-old Monique Betty was pretty and popular. She also was in an abusive relationship.
"I was a cheerleader. And he was a jock. And everyone liked him. We had lots of friends," she said.
What began as an apparently picture-perfect relationship soon "turned into a nightmare," Betty said.
The Pocatello, Idaho, native began dating her boyfriend in the seventh grade and the abuse started small. Betty's boyfriend wanted to know her whereabouts at all times, would belittle her and control who she saw.
He pointed out imperfections, made fun of her clothes and Betty even would have to talk to him at sleepovers because he didn't trust her.
"I was so alone. Like, he started rumors about me and, like, I lost all my friends," Betty said.
Things escalated to physical violence, with him pushing and grabbing her, she said.
But unlike Kristin Mitchell, Betty is a domestic abuse survivor because one day she collapsed in her father's arms and pleaded for help.
"I was actually in denial that it was happening," said Betty's father, Tom Betty.
What Betty did is uncommon, because according to the study, two out of three teenagers don't confide in their parents.
But his daughter's nightmare became the family's nightmare, too, when their daughter's ex-boyfriend began stalking her.