A Mother's Story

Rise In Teen Dating Violence In America

A teenage girl was stabbed to death by her boyfriend 17 years ago. Her mother was so traumatized that she began looking into teen dating violence.

What she discovered stunned her: Girls as young as 12 in cities and towns across the country are going to court to get restraining orders against their teenage boyfriends.

And it was physical and sexual violence, not unlike adult domestic violence, that led Mark Smith to kill his 15-year-old girlfriend. Correspondent Vicki Mabrey reports.

"I was so high on adrenaline that there was no way that I could stop what I was doing until I came down from that rush," says Mark Smith, describing the day that he stabbed his girlfriend to death just hours before their high school homecoming game.

Jenny Crompton was a freshman. Mark was 18 and a recent high school graduate.

Police say he was waiting in her house when she got home from school, angry that Jenny had recently broken off their volatile year-long relationship.

"I wasn't going to let her, you know, try and tell me what to do," says Mark, who stabbed Jenny 66 times with a butcher knife as she entered the house.

Jenny's mother, Vicki Crompton, says she knew immediately who had killed her daughter: "It's like all the pieces fell into place for me. And the police said to me, 'Who would want to hurt your daughter?' And I immediately said, 'Mark Allen Smith.'"

Vicki says her daughter never told her that Mark had gone from affectionate and charming to menacing and controlling over the course of their relationship.

"She was confiding in 14- and 15-year-old girls who thought that they could handle it," says Vicki.

Why did Mark want power and control over Jenny? He says it's just how he was brought up at home.

"I was always like that. I've always had to have some type of control," says Mark, who admits that he would slap Jenny when she resisted. "It seemed like it was all a normal thing for me."

Vicki, however, says she had never heard of teen domestic violence until after her daughter's murder.

"I was just absolutely dumbfounded. And at his trial, I started hearing these other teenagers talk about Jenny and Mark's relationship," recalls Vicki.

"I mean, they were talking about the abuse and, you know, the slapping her around. But, 'That's no big deal. Everybody does it.'"

Soon after, Vicki began visiting schools across the country, driving home the message that teen violence is a big deal.

She's also written a book, "Saving Beauty From The Beast," using her daughter's story to point out the warning signs and stressing that control does not equal love.

"Sometimes the schools will say we don't really think we have a problem, but we believe we need to educate," says Vicki. "And then, the kids will come up later and tell me, 'Yes, it is going on here. There is a problem.'"

And it's a problem, she now says, that's starting to get national attention. In fact, a recent study of 4,000 girls in Massachusetts by the Centers For Disease Control and Harvard University found that a surprising 1 in 5 adolescent girls reported being "physically and/or sexually hurt" by a boyfriend – and, as a result, were at greater risk for pregnancy, drug use and suicide.

That has prompted schools to take dramatic new steps, offering counseling and developing safety plans, all aimed at protecting young teens trapped in abusive relationships.

Camille Zuniga of San Jose, Calif., took out a restraining order two years ago against her former boyfriend. From the beginning of their relationship, Camille says he was jealous and possessive.

"It started out with the way he talked to me. He started belittling me and, you know, telling me that no one cared for me. That my family didn't care about me," says Camille. "And that he's the one that's been taking care of me. That's what he told me, that he's the one that takes care of me."

It wasn't long before she was completely dependent on him – and just six months into their relationship, she says he convinced her to have his baby. She was 15.

"He told me that I was going to get pregnant," says Camille. "I was going to have his baby, and that I was going to get pregnant so he knew that I wasn't going to do anything anymore."

He became violent while she was pregnant.

"The sex issue was still a huge part. We would have sex. When I would be crying, he would just tell me to stop until he was done," says Camille. "If I had wanted to leave, he would grab me by my arm and not let me leave, you know? Or he would physically just block my way from getting anywhere. I just I had to stay there and there was nothing I could do about it."

Did she recognize that what he was doing was abuse?

"I thought abuse was only hitting me," says Camille. "So I didn't think that it was just my problem, that's what I thought. You know, that I have to get him to stop."

"You're sort of slowly reeled into this thing. And you're caught," adds Vicki, who says kids often don't recognize this kind of control is unhealthy until it's too late.

"You're trapped. And you don't even realize it. They can get out of it. But that's when it can be dangerous - when they want to try and make that break."

That happened to Camille when she tried to leave her ex-boyfriend, who began stalking her.

The last straw, she says, was when he attacked her while she was holding their baby: "He charged at me. He hit me in my head like five or six times with a closed fist. And he knocked me over. And I was so shocked. I couldn't believe that happened. So I ran to the phone to call the police, because he was on top of me hitting me in the head."

Her boyfriend was arrested and pled guilty to assault. He appeared before Judge Eugene Hyman, who created the first juvenile domestic violence court in the country to deal solely with teenage batterers and their victims.

"If I have someone doing an episode of domestic violence, then I have to worry whether or not at what level are they gonna go to next," says Hyman. "Are they going to start using weapons? Are they gonna start choking till the person dies? You know, what's gonna happen?"

In extreme cases, Hyman sends offenders to juvenile state prison. But more often, they're sent to a rehabilitation facility known as "The Ranch."

"They are doing domestic violence like adults, the same methods as adults. The only difference is, fortunately, that mostly the injuries are not like adult injuries," says Hyman, who sent Camille's boyfriend there for eight months.

Is he referring to kids who have mental health issues? Kids who really have a criminal bent? Or the kid next door?

"We are talking about the kid next door, the kid down the street, the kid in the school," says Hyman. "We're talking about the homecoming king. We're talking about everyone."

Where does the need for power and control come from?

"I think it comes from the chaotic home life," says Vicki. "They had no control in their home life. And I'm talking about the young men, or the batterer. You know, not a lot of nurturing. Maybe a house where the parents weren't home a lot … I think that's where it starts."

Cameras are rarely allowed in for juvenile proceedings, but Judge Hyman let 60 Minutes II in to highlight what he says is a crisis in Santa Clara County, Calif.

Many times, he's handling 75 cases, similar to this one, where a 17-year-old kicked his pregnant girlfriend. And while he does see the occasional female offender, 9 times out of 10, it's boys punching, choking, and even raping their girlfriends.

One typical case is Richie Ramos, a first-time offender who was found guilty last year at 17 of assaulting his girlfriend. He was sentenced to spend four months at The Ranch.

"She was up in my face, so I pushed her away, and I mean I admit I did push her," says Ramos. "I shoulda just left when that happened. But I didn't. And I paid the consequences for it."

For Richie, and other teen offenders at The Ranch, the consequences include 26 weeks of group counseling, which is modeled after the 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program. Richie recently finished his sessions, and counselors said he did well. But occasionally, he tried to downplay what happened, which was not acceptable.

"I was basically saying that it was just a push by her neck, making it sound like it wasn't really anything that big of a deal," says Richie, who doesn't believe his punishment fit the crime.

However, he says he has learned from the experience: "At first when I was sitting in that jail cell, I was like, 'You know, I hate this girl.' And I felt a lot of hate towards her. But now that I'm out and I think about it, it's OK … It's not OK, but I can deal with it. I blame nobody but myself."

Incarceration didn't change Camille's ex-boyfriend. Police say he's continued to stalk her, and they've issued a warrant for his arrest. Camille keeps renewing the restraining order and carries it with her at all times – a piece of paper that's supposed to save her life.

"The question that floats around in my mind is like, 'Well, what is this gonna do, when he's in front of my face,'" says Camille. "What is this gonna do, when he's angry or he's coming at me or he's chasing me or he's in my house? What am I gonna do with this piece of paper."

Camille was only 15 when she got involved with her boyfriend – the same age as Jenny Crompton when she was murdered by Mark Smith.

Smith is now serving life in an Iowa prison, and Vicki confronted him eight years ago. She says she needed to know what motivated him to kill her daughter.

"I just think he is a boy that needed to have control and couldn't get it. And that's the only way he knew," says Vicki. "A lot of guys like him. A lot of people like him walking around."