Nancy Tran was 15 when she met her first boyfriend, one who would leave her physically scarred for life. Four years later, Tran told him she wanted out of the increasingly rocky relationship. Enraged, he broke into her Los Angeles home as she slept, doused her in gasoline and set her on fire.
“I ignored all the evidence that he was bad because I wanted to be in a relationship,” said Tran, now 31. “I didn’t want to let him down.”
Marissa Presley, an education specialist for Laura’s House, a domestic violence shelter in Orange County, Calif., believes the best prevention is learning to identify the signs of a potential abuser early, even as early as the first date. She highlights red flags, including treating wait staff and others rudely, blaming others for their problems, and becoming easily prone to jealousy.
To help Presley and Laura’s House spread its message, Verizon Wireless has donated to the shelter’s Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships for Teens (HEART) initiative and its website designed to educate teens about the subject. Presley speaks to high school and junior high school students as part of the HEART program to educate them about domestic violence at a time when they are just starting to date. “What we have found is that even 12 year olds are dating and getting involved in abusive relationships,” Presley said.
Tran, who suffered burns and scarring to much of her face and body, recently heard Presley speak. Her ex-boyfriend exhibited many of the signs Presley warned about but his violent side never appeared until the relationship had continued for too long and she tried to get out. “I remember thinking, why didn’t I learn about this when I was younger?”
With her ex-boyfriend currently serving a 12 years-to-life prison sentence, Tran is attending community college and recently began an internship with Laura’s House in order to aid other victims.
As today marks International Women’s Day, United Nations Woman Executive Director Michelle Bachelet is calling upon the international community to deliver on its commitment to protect women’s rights and take action to end the violence.