STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - More than two and a half years ago, 16 year-old Demi Cuccia should have been celebrating her “Sweet Sixteen.” Instead, the young woman from Monroeville was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
Thursday, Cuccia's Father and Step-Mother came to Centre County to talk about legislation they feel could have saved their daughter's life. House Bill 2026 would teach seventh through twelfth graders about teen dating violence.
Ohio, Nebraska, and Rhode Island already have laws that require this type of in school education and Demi's Father is determined to make Pennsylvania the fourth state with those requirements.
“He stabbed my daughter 16 times in our own living room the day after her 16th birthday, and uh, how do you live with that?” Dr. Gary Cuccia said.
Cuccia said he lives with his daughter’s murder by trying to make sure teens know how to get out of a violent relationship. Demi's killer has been sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison.
“All the sudden your daughter is taken out of your life just like that, and we didn't see it. We should have seen it, but we weren't educated.”
Cuccia's really pushing for kids to get the facts. He said students as young as 12 would learn about dating violence in their health classes.
“You need to empower them with the tools to protect themselves and that’s what this bill would do so, it's super, super important.”
With Facebook and text messaging replacing calls on the home phone, dating violence is not always on a parent's radar until it is too late.
“Most often its a parent who a teen has talked to who's concerned about their teenager and who encourages that teen to come to come to us but we get calls on the hotline and we get teens who come in,” Anne Ard, Executive Director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, said.
“Had she have known some of these signs, and after especially to break off a relationship with a controlling boy like this you don't put yourself in a situation where you're alone with them,” Cuccia said.
If you think Demi's story is one in a million, think again, the American Medical Association reports that one in five teenage girls will be a victim of dating violence.
House Bill 2026 has passed through the house, but it is stalled in the State Senate's Education Committee. WTAJ News called the Chair of the Education Committee, Senator Jeffery Piccola, but he has not returned those calls.
To learn more about Demi’s story and House Bill 2026, visit www.DemiBrae.com.