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Identity & Community

Teen Dating Violence Focus of Week-Long Effort

Nearly one in 10 high school students reported being physically injured by their significant other in 2012.

That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s something Pittsburgh’s Prime Stage Theatre wants to end.

The educational theater group is bringing its touring Teen Dating Awareness Program to CCAC’s Boyce Campus Tuesday as part of the YWCA’s Week Without Violence.

Started nearly 20 years ago, the week-long effort looks to educate the community on the dangers of violence through a series of education programs.

Connie Brinda, co-founder of Prime Stage, said the Teen Dating Awareness Program tries to teach educators, parents and students how to spot teen dating violence.

“Our outreach is really to make everyone aware of the warning signs to help prevent teens from being put into a relationship or get stuck in a relationship where they feel they have no help to get out,” she said.

The CDC defines teen dating violence as “physical, sexual or psychological/emotional violence within a relationship, as well as stalking” and can be caused by anything from drugs and alcohol to poor anger and frustration management skills.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., teen actors will take the stage and perform “You Belong To Me,” a script that blends the artistic elements of theater with the first-hand testimony of Jodi Cuccia.

In 2007, Jodi Cuccia’s 16-year-old daughter, Demi Cuccia, a cheerleader at Gateway High School in Monroeville, was murdered by her boyfriend after trying to end their relationship. The Teen Dating Awareness Program was created in response.

Audience members will have the opportunity to address Jodi Cuccia and the cast in a question and answer session following the play.

Brinda said parents need to take a proactive stance on teen dating violence.

“Usually when it develops to the point where the teen is in a bad situation, the boyfriend or girlfriend has already — I hate to say it this way — but brainwashed them,” she said. “Then it’s going to take a little bit more work, but there are counselors and there are free services out there for anyone that needs it.”

Brinda believes the production is so effective because it gives people a sense of reality.

“The teens watching the program can see somebody who’s very popular in school” she said, “and how their self-esteem can start to slowly disintegrate and they become controlled by their partner.”

The CCAC performance is being managed by the YWCA of Pittsburgh and is not open to the public.