PHOENIX -- According to a nationwide survey, nearly 10 percent of high-school students report being hit, slapped or otherwise physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
And it's not just high schoolers.
A recently released study involving nearly 1,500 middle school students showed that one in six had experienced dating violence in the past six months. More than 35 percent said they suffered psychological abuse.
Despite these startling statistics, kids and adults are often unaware of how pervasive dating violence is among teens.
Kaity's Way was formed specifically to help end teen dating violence. Kaity Sudberry, a senior at Moon Valley High School, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend on Jan. 28, 2008. Her mother, Bobbi Sudberry, created Kaity's Way in the 17-year-old's honor. Its express purpose is to provide assistance to children of all ages who are subjected to or involved in violent relationships.
Bonnell, the mother of a 12-year-old herself, sat down with 3TV's Javier Soto to talk about the disturbing issue of teen dating violence and what parents and teens alike need to know.
She said there's not so much a surge in teen dating violence as there is an increased awareness of it.
"I think it's just now that we've become aware of it and that we're trying to find ways to address it," Bonnell said.
"The way to stop [teen dating violence] is to stop it before it starts," Bonnell explained. "One of the beautiful things about middle school is it's the time when kids are really exploring what it is that a relationship means."
Bonnell said middle school is the opportune time to talk to kids about the "perfect" romantic relationships they read, hear and see about and the reality of real-life relationships and the work that must go into them.
For more information about teen dating violence and what can be done about it, visit www.kaitysway.org.