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Violence and victims come in many forms
Domestic Violence Awareness event focuses on teen dating
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Victims of domestic violence may not look how you expect.

They can be the teller at your bank, your Sunday school teacher and even your own teenage daughter.

During the sixth annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month Breakfast and Briefing, organizers of the event drove that point home with guest speaker and author Abigail Hosford-Cutchshaw.

"I can see that some of you are shocked that I was a victim of domestic violence," said Hosford-Cutchshaw, during the event hosted by the Domestic Violence Task Force Northeastern Judicial Circuit and the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.

"Some of us are highly educated. Some victims are rich, some are poor. Some have been abused their whole lives and others come from loving homes."

Thursday's briefing focused on teen dating violence.

During the event, organizers also presented Sgt. Bob Watterson, of the Hall County Sheriff's Department, with the Domestic Violence Officer of the Year Award.

Watterson is a member of the department's domestic violence unit.

"Dating and domestic violence doesn't explode. It starts with a seed. It begins with subtle control," said Stephanie Woodard, Hall County solicitor general and member of the domestic violence task force.

"Through the Internet, electronic media and social networking, our young adults begin relationships with more access to each other than ever before available. What feels like romantic attention can quickly turn into telephone or textual harassment."

According to Woodard, excessive calling and texting can both be signs of a problem that can lead to dating and domestic violence.

Hosford-Cutchshaw shared with the group how she met her now ex-husband when she was 17 - he was 21 - and how their relationship quickly took a turn for the worst.

"In a very short amount of time, I was isolated and he became my everything. On New Year's Eve in 1992, I was 18 years old. We were at a party and he wanted the keys to leave and I said no," she said, of the first time that her ex hit her.

"We had a standoff in the took four of his friends to get him off of me. No one called the police and no one called my parents. His stepmother gave me a warning. She said ‘If he hit you once, he'll hit you again.'"

Unfortunately, that warning proved to be true. What started with him being possessive led to years of abuse punctuated with broken bones, being choked until she passed out and having clumps of hair ripped from her scalp, Hosford-Cutchshaw said.

"Love is a verb, not a feeling," she said.

"If someone is hurting you, they don't love you."