GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., -- Virginia Castro began to experience dating violence in her teens. Now a survivor of domestic violence, she shares her story to hopefully save someone else.
"I started dating when I was 13, 14 years old. I remember my second boyfriend was violent," explained Castro. "In my case, it was progressive. He got worse and worse and worse."
The shocking video released Monday of Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an elevator is pushing the issue of domestic violence to the forefront, and sparking conversations about the warning signs and how to break the cycle.
Lesley Coghill, the Prevention Coordinator at Center for Women in Transition said the problem can begin to manifest as early as middle school relationships. According to loveisrespect.org, 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. will experience some sort of abuse (physical, emotional, verbal) from their dating partner.
"It's not just puppy love," said Coghill. "It really needs to be taken very seriously...Domestic violence thrives because there is a silence built around it."
The non-profit center, which serves woman in Allegan and Ottawa counties, strives to prevent, reduce and respond to domestic and sexual violence. Coghill said signs like isolation, control and manipulation can indicate a relationship is currently experiencing or headed toward abuse. She added even social media has become an avenue for abuse.
"Spreading rumors online, posting negative things or text messaging, constantly texting their partner," she explained. "[In a healthy relationship] there should be equality and it should be mutual."
Casto has moved on from her abusive past and is now single. She wants others to know they can also move on from a violent partner.
"We have to be careful," she told FOX 17 News. "If you don't get away to stop the cycle, to stop that way of life, it's going to continue."
If you or someone you know is experience domestic/dating violence, there is help available. To learn more, click here.
To learn more about the Center for Women in Transition, click here.