Flashpoint Extra: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, young Montco woman hopes to bring change by sharing story

A story you'll hear first on KYW Newsradio

October 10, 2019 - 8:37 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and blogger, public speaker and advocate Makenzie Clanagan of Montgomery County is warning teens about the signs of a violent partner.

The effort comes from her own terrifying experience.

"Of course I never thought this would happen to me, so when it happened to me it opened my eyes," she said.

Makenzie Clanagan and her ex-boyfriend.
Courtesy of Makenzie Clanagan

The 20-year-old is founder of Zee's Reflections, an online blog where she writes about teen dating violence. She speaks to groups of girls and young women, raising awareness because she learned through experience.

"Everything was good," she said. "He was the perfect guy. He treated me very well."

At 16, Clanagan fell for a boy. Everything went well until her senior year, when she began to spend more time with friends and plan for college.

"I noticed some red flags. He was being very overprotective, started telling me what to do, what to wear, who I could talk to," she said.

Clanagan did not mention his attitude shift to her parents. Instead, she just broke up with the boy. That's when things escalated.

"I kind of blocked him because he was blowing up my phone, calling me mean names," she said. 

Days later, he found Clanagan and attacked. The 17-year-old pistol-whipped and beat her, kidnapping her and her friends at gunpoint.

"I had broken cheekbones, a broken nose and a concussion," she said.

Quick thinking by a friend alerted her parents and police. The boy was arrested, charged with a number of crimes and sentenced to time in juvenile prison. He was recently released, and while Clanagan has healed physically and therapy helped with her anxiety, there are moments.

"Loud noises still scare me," she said.

For her mother, Carla, what shocked her the most about the situation was how young they were. 

Carla says she and her husband taught her daughter how men should treat her. She's proud of how Makenzie handled the situation, how she's growing as a person and overcoming her own fears. But Carla has learned how important it is to have tough conversations with kids.

"We are a two parent, cat and dog household in the suburbs," she said, "and this happened to us, and it could happen to anyone."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 26 percent of women and 15 percent of men experience dating violence before age 18. So Makenzie says she wants youth to know that it happens to many.

"My goal is to just to educate people on it and let them know they are not alone," she said. "Do not be afraid to ask for help or tell a friend, tell your mom. It's not healthy to stay in these situations."