The Bronx district attorney’s office and Family Justice Centers have been working together since 2010 to provide that help, and on Feb. 16, they came together to publicize that anyone experiencing any type of bullying or abuse in their relationship should get in touch with them.
Estrella, now 26, spoke of how as a scared teen, she got the help she needed from the Family Justice Center in Brooklyn and the judicial system to finally end an abusive relationship. At 13, she began dating a teenage boy she met online who, after a couple of months, became overtly jealous. When she tried to break up with him, “that’s the first time he ever hit me,” she said. Every time she tried to break up with her abuser, he would threaten suicide and other forms of manipulation to keep her in the relationship, she said.
Even after becoming pregnant by him at 15, the physical abuse didn’t stop. After her daughter was born, Estrella finally called the police, and that prompted physical threats to her and her family.
“He ended up going crazy – we had our food on the table, he flipped it over, he started punching the walls, the mirror, he broke the TV we had in the living room and started breaking everything in my house,” said Estrella. He was arrested, and Estrella was connected with the Family Justice Center that helped her with counseling and her case.
Estrella spoke of witnessing her own father abuse her mother as a child and said, “I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.” Statistically, those who witness abuse in the home, are more likely to be in abusive relationships.
Of those that experience teenage dating violence, more than 80% are female, with LGBTQI experiencing a higher rate of violence than those who identify as heterosexual. And according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, partner abuse is most prevalent among 18 to 24-year-olds. “Teen dating violence is so important because it’s so prevalent,” said Jennifer DeCarli, deputy commissioner of the Family Justice Centers & Outreach.
Lia, 19, who lives in the northern Bronx also shared her experience of verbal and mental abuse at the hands of a former partner. She met Angel on Facebook, where they had mutual friends, and started dating. Soon afterwards, he began showing signs of jealousy. “He would tell me if I was to get raped because of the clothes I wore, he would just leave me because it was ‘disrespectful,’” she said. She broke off the relationship two years later and although he still tries to contact her, she no longer feels threatened and is taking a break from dating.
Veronica Garcia, 36, delivered a teary-eyed testimonial about her experiences of physical abuse at the hands of her child’s father. Garcia said that he would stick his fingers in her eyes when they argued and even bit her face. At the time, Garcia, who is a Honduran native, was undocumented and her abuser would threaten “If you leave me, I’m going to report you to immigration and I’m going to take my child away from you.”
Garcia eventually got help from the Family Justice Center in the Bronx and was able to extricate herself from the relationship. “They make me feel like family,” she said.She stressed the importance of seeking help and said that if she had waited any longer, “I would be dead.”
- call 311 and ask for the nearest Family Justice Center
- visit NYC.gov/NYCHOPE
- Call the 24-Hour NYC Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE