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Beaty speaker Cuccia seeks to raise teen violence awareness

Times Observer photo by Kate Cataldo Dr. Gary Cuccia pictured with his wife Johanna at Beatty Middle School. A group of 8th graders gathered Thursday afternoon to listen to Dr. Cuccia, a chiropractor from Greensburg, speak about Teen Dating Violence. He shared the heart-breaking story of his 16 year-old daughter’s brutal murder at the hands of her boyfriend.

Local students were reminded Thursday to never break up alone.

Dr. Gary Cuccia, a chiropractor from Greensburg, visited Beaty Warren Middle School to speak with the eighth-graders about teen dating violence, and shared the heartbreaking story of his 16-year-old daughter’s brutal murder.

One out of three teens will experience dating violence in a relationship. He told the teens about the importance of speaking up and sticking together.

“That’s one thing Demi didn’t do,” Cuccia said.

Demi Brae, Dr. Cuccia’s daughter, was stabbed 16 times by her ex-boyfriend on the evening of August 15, 2007. She would have been a junior at Gateway High School in Monroeville, just outside of Pittsburgh.

Demi was an honor roll student, loving daughter and friend, and had a strong faith. After Cuccia learned of his daughter’s death, “it just didn’t make any sense to me. I had no idea my daughter was in danger,” he reflects.

Cuccia said there are signs of a violent and/or abusive relationship. Abusers have a pattern of control and the cycle of abuse will only get worse over time. Abusers will isolate and break down their victims, making it a hard or impossible situation to get out of. Abuse is a learned behavior and it is too common.

“It’s the truth of the world we live in,” Cuccia said.

He wants today’s youth to be better, stressing the importance for students to stick together and watch each other’s backs. According to him, it is the silence of our friends that hurts the most.

“If you see something, say something,” Cuccia said.

As our communication platforms have become increasingly private and silent, parents have a harder time being involved in or aware of their child’s relationships. When phones were on cords, there was only so far you could run off to, and most times conversations were heard. Parents had a general idea of what was happening in their kids’ lives.

Technology of today has made that obsolete. It is up to parents to start discussions and be involved voluntarily to keep their children safe. Parents should let their children know how to open up to someone, anyone, and to let them know what they are going through.

“You never think that it is going to happen to you. The pain of losing a daughter is sickening and never goes away,” Cuccia said.

He chooses to channel his pain into something meaningful and to help advocate for those who were taken too soon due to dating violence … like his daughter.

Bad things happen 83% of the time when break-ups happen alone.

“Don’t put yourself in that situation,” Cuccia said. “Life is not a video game, there is no reset button.”

When an abuser starts losing control of someone, things will escalate and eventually get out of control.

Cuccia said that Demi just did not know what her ex-boyfriend was capable of. After speaking with families all over the world, Cuccia concludes that, in most, if not all cases, abuse or dating violence occurs during or after a break-up. He reminds us that sometimes we have to bring things to light for people, in order to see it for what it is.

“Tell somebody,” said Cuccia. “It could make all the difference in the world.”

Dating abuse and violence is everywhere these days. February being Teen Dating Violence and Awareness Month, he is on a mission to share his story. He wants his presentations to be an opportunity to open a dialogue with children about the dangers and red flags of dating violence and abuse. He speaks to students, teachers, and parents who can help him spread his message and make more teens aware of the dangers exposed to them.

For more information about Dr. Cuccia’s story, and the Demi Brae Cuccia Awareness Organization, visit www.demibrae.com.

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