Teen dating violence survivor: 'all the signs were there' - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Teen dating violence survivor: 'all the signs were there'

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Teens. Dating. Violence. It may not be something parents want to think is happening but it is. In fact, one in three adolescents in the United States is the victim of abuse by a dating partner and a staggering 81-percent of parents don't even know this is an issue.

Juliana Lozano, of Charlotte, was one of them. She spent four years in an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, we'll call him "Joe".

"You kind of, you feel worthless," she said. "You have nowhere to run to, nobody to talk to, nobody to help you."

They began dating when she 17 and said the physical abuse started about three months into the relationship.

"It just started with little things," Lozano recalled. "Maybe pinching or pushing."

But as her relationship with "Joe" progressed -- so did the abuse. She recalls one night in particular.

"He got mad cause I took too long to get my hair done," she remembered. "So when I got to the house, he messed up my hair and he bit my forehead...and punched my head several times."

Even though she took pictures to document the abuse and often called police, Lozano never pressed charges.

"Part of me didn't want to see him hurt," she said. "I don't know. I feel like I was brainwashed."

Looking back she says the abuse began as verbal, a common starting point, experts say.

"You're fat,"she said about the name-calling. "You a fat, ugly, (expletive deleted) and nobody is ever gonna want you. All the red flags were there but I was so in love that I didn't see it. I was so blinded."

That blind love -- and abuse -- would continue right through her pregnancy until the night she says "Joe" hit her in front of their son, Jeffrey.

"I don't want him to grow up seeing this," she said. "That was like my breaking point."

Now seven months later, she's an advocate sharing her story with other teens.

"I'm proof," she said proudly. "I'm a survivor, I'm a survivor of domestic violence. I went through so much with him and still made it through."

Lozano is currently in school working toward her master's in social work. She's also a speaker withe the Love Speaks Out teen speaker's bureau and travels around Mecklenburg county talking to teens about her story, the signs of abuse and how to get out.

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