Piston, now remarried and a mother of two, has an analogy she likes to use to describe living in that kind of situation.
"It's like a frog," she said. "You put a frog in a pot of hot water, and it jumps out immediately to save its own skin. But if you put a frog in a pot of cold water, and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will stay there until it's too late, because it gets used to it gradually.
That's what it's like. Gradually it escalates until you believe this is normal. You believe you deserve it."
MADE is designed to change that mindset.
"The goal of MADE is to get every state to require a curriculum for middle and high schools to educate them on domestic violence, especially among teens," Piston said. "What is a healthy relationship? What is a violent relationship? If you're in a bad relationship, this will give you the tools to get the help you need and to get out safely. If your friend is in a bad relationship, it will give you the tools to help without putting yourself in danger."
How schools can help
MADE and Liz Claiborne Inc.'s Love is Not Abuse Campaign have put together a curriculum for middle and high school students to change the misconceptions about teen dating violence and provide the proper tools to those who need help. Taught in English and health education classes, the curriculum uses poems and short stories as a springboard to help teens understand how to make healthy choices in relationships and what to do if they are in abusive ones.
It also includes information about loveisrespect.org, The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline. (For more on the curriculum, see the sidebar entitled "Curriculum Goals.") To date, over 1,400 schools nationwide have begun using the curriculum.