Debby Ryan Stands Up Against Dating Violence: 'At First I Was Afraid'

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We love that there's been so much buzz about feminism and equality lately, and now Debby Ryan is bringing another important issue to light - dating violence.

The 21-year-old actress has teamed up with Mary Kay for a powerful campaign called "Don't Look Away." Its goal is to bring awareness that 1 in 3 young people today experience dating violence. Are you surprised by that stat? Debby was too.

"I don't think I knew it was as big as a problem as it was. It's almost easier to think that it's not a problem," Debby told us over the phone. "I was definitely surprised. When you find out 1 in 3 or 1 in 4, these statistics are absolutely insane. It doesn't even have to be physical abuse - it's mental, emotional and psychological abuse, it's all very real."

This is also something that personally weighs heavy with Debby. "I heard about the campaign and at first I was afraid of it because I had experienced a situation that I never talked about," she revealed. "It took me so long and so much fighting to get it out and I didn't want to revisit it." Debby recently opened up to Teen Vogue about an abusive relationship she had with a best friend. "He showed up across the country at a meet-and-greet of mine and said he needed to talk to me," she said. "I hadn't talked to him in a month. I told him to leave my life. So he threw a phone at me and it shattered to pieces and he was screaming, punching the wall, and cussing me out. Then he started bawling and said he's sorry and loves me. And then grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me in a bathroom and locked the door."

But after holding it in for so long, "I realized because how much work it took to get out, I had to help anyone who's going through this or might be experiencing this significantly worse than me, or have families," she continued. "We have to help each other."

We understand that the element of fear is strong in situations like this, but getting help has never been easier. "What's really cool is that Mary Kay and 'Love Is Respect' have partnered together and they have the world's first text for help campaign. It's 24/7, 365 and you can text in and young adults and teens can be talking to a peer advocate whether they want advice or just run someone through 'This is what my relationship looks like, this is how he/she gets, is this normal? Is this okay?' You have someone carefully trained to help you get out of these situations."

Debby has been such a positive voice that we had to ask her what the #BUILTBYGIRLS movement means to her. "I love that," Debby said after learning about BBG. "We absolutely can do anything. I'm inspired by women that I was talking to 5 minutes ago who were telling me about how they got themselves and their children out of [abusive situations]. Anything from that emotional to, 'Okay I want to go to business school and I want to get a scholarship.' Those are things we can do."

She ended with, "It's about embracing what makes you unique as a women. It's dreaming big and working harder." And we fully stand behind that.

Find out more about Mary Kay, Love Is Respect and Don't Look Away.

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