Getting the Word Out

She was a 16-year-old student at Monroeville High School who, along with managing school work and after-school activities,  had to deal with a relationship with an on-again, off-again boyfriend. While her father tells me she knew there were issues, she had no idea things would turn violent.

Demi Cuccia was killed by him in October 2007. Stabbed 16 times. However, her family doesn’t want Demi to be just another tragedy. Just another statistic and the statistics are overwhelming when it comes to teen date violence. 1 in 3 teenagers has fallen victim to abuse of a physical or sexual nature from a dating partner. 1 in 5 teen girls falls into that category. Finally, consider teen girls are three times more likely to become victims of dating violence that adult women.

This February is teen date violence awareness month. Organizers believe it’s an opportunity to discuss a problem that often isn’t talked about in everyday conversation. Whether it be students not telling their parents or students not even knowing,  teen date violence victims often go through this uneasy and painful place alone.

Demi Cuccia: She has been remembered in various tributes by her friends and classmates. Now, her family wants to pay a lasting tribute: by making  sure other teens are aware of the dating violence that claimed her life.

Womensplace, a local organization which deals with domestic violence issues, worked with six different Allegheny county high schools to host sessions during the month on teen date violence. From role-playing to frank conversation, the goal was to get the word out to teenagers that this happens and that they can fall victim to it. Whether it be verbal, physical or sexual abuse, it does happen. The hope is that “knowledge” will truly be “power”.

Gary Cuccia, Demi’s father, tells me about a battle he’s waging on another front. Ever since his daughter’s violent murder, his family has been pushing for the state legislature to make teen date violence education a mandatory part of the curriculum for students in grades 7-12 in Pennsylvania. The amendment, named after Demi Cuccia, would mandate such education take place in school health classes.

The bill is set for a vote in the House next month and victory would send it to the senate. As Gary Cuccia told me, as painful as it has been for his family, he hopes this addition to the school curriculum will prevent another young person from experiencing the horror and pain that Demi did on that October night in 2007.

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