Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Liz Claiborne and National Association of Attorneys General Team Up to Help Tweens and Parents Recognize Abusive Relationships - Before They Start

Liz Claiborne Inc. released a survey on July 8 (today) that a surprising number of young adolescents are experiencing significant levels of dating violence and abuse. One in five children between the ages of 13 and 14 (20%) say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half of all tweens in relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused. Alarmingly, 40% of the youngest tweens, those between the ages of 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships and nearly 1 in 10 (9%) say their friends have had sex.

Liz Claiborne Inc. and www.loveisrespect.org (the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline), commissioned the survey on Tween and Teen dating relationships that was conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) to explore how relationships among young adolescents are fueling high levels of dating violence and abuse.

Recognizing the significance of this alarming trend in tween sexual activity and dating abuse, President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, along with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, introduced an unprecedented initiative that was unanimously passed at NAAG’s June meeting to ensure that all Attorneys General work to incorporate a teen dating violence and abuse curriculum in every school in their states.

“Over the past four years Liz Claiborne Inc. has conducted research into the many aspects of teen dating abuse. What makes this current study so disturbing is the clear and unexpected finding that dating abuse and violence begins at such a young age,” says Jane Randel, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Liz Claiborne Inc. “We applaud the willingness of Attorney General Lynch to push for the introduction of education about dating abuse in schools across the country. This research shows just how urgently this information is needed.”

This Teen Dating Violence Education Resolution is inspired by the Lindsay Ann Burke Act, a law proposed by Attorney General Lynch that became effective in Rhode Island in July 2007. The Act, named in the honor of Lindsay Ann Burke, who was murdered after a 2-year struggle in an abusive relationship, requires all school districts in Rhode Island to teach about the signs of dating violence and abuse every year from grades 7- 12. Attorney General Lynch and Lindsay’s parents, Ann and Christopher Burke, will join Jane Randel at a press conference to announce the data findings and the Attorneys General’s new initiative to combat dating abuse.

“We are committed to addressing this issue through education. Abuse and violence in intimate partner relationships not only cause great individual pain, but this destructive behavior also breaks down families, communities and our larger society,” says Attorney General Lynch. “A curriculum such as Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love Is Not Abuse is an effective way to begin the process of education, prevent abuse, and help to save lives.”

Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love Is Not Abuse curriculum aims to raise awareness about the problem of dating abuse, recommend resources that provide assistance, such as loveisrespect.org, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, and ultimately, help prevent dating abuse from occurring in the future. The curriculum was piloted around the country in October 2005 and was officially launched in April 2006. As of June 2008, this free curriculum has been distributed to approximately 3,500 schools and organizations across all 50 states.

“We know from experience that education can be one of the best means of prevention. My fellow Attorneys General and I are committed to ensuring that education on teen dating abuse is provided in schools across America,” says Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. “We are grateful to Liz Claiborne, Inc., for their work on this important issue and look forward to working with them to combat this problem and keep teens safe.”

To help analyze the new survey findings, Liz Claiborne Inc. recruited the country’s top ten leading experts on tween and teen dating abuse to assess the data. Experts found high levels of tween and teen dating abuse combined with a lack of knowledge from both parents and children on the signs of harmful dating. The results clearly imply that there is a great need for more parental education and involvement, and schools need to institute teen dating abuse curriculum beginning as early as 6th grade.

“The survey’s data on the extent of emotional and controlling behaviors among tweens are the most critical additions to our current knowledge of abuse in adolescent relationships,” says Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at the U.C. Davis School of Medicine. “The numbers of tweens in relationships who report experiencing emotional abuse and controlling behaviors are staggering. Clearly this shows that many young people are already experiencing unhealthy relationships early on (even in the absence of sexual activity), many recognize these behaviors as not acceptable, but few know where to seek help or how to help a friend.”

Among the key findings:

Dating relationships begin much earlier than expected

Ø Nearly three in four tweens (72%) say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.
Ø More than one in three 11-12 year olds (37%) say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

Surprising levels of abusive behavior reported in tween (11-14) dating relationships.
Ø 62% of tweens who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc) by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Ø Two in five (41%) tweens who have been in a relationship know friends who have been called names, put down, or insulted via cellphone, IM, social networking sites (such as MySpace and Facebook), etc.
Ø One in five 13-14 year olds in relationships (20%) say they know friends and peers who have been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Ø Only half of all tweens (51%) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship.

Significant numbers of teens (15-18) are experiencing emotional and mental abuse as well as violence in their dating relationships; this is even more prevalent among teens that have had sex by the age of 14.
Ø More than one in three teens report that their partners wanted to know where they were (36%) and who they were with (37%) all the time.
Among teens who had sex by age 14, it’s much higher (58% and 59%, respectively).
Ø 29% of teens say their boyfriends/girlfriends call them names and put them down, compared to 58% of teens who had sex by age 14.
Ø 22% of teens say they were pressured to do things they did not want to do, compared to 45% of teens who had sex by age 14.
Ø 69% of all teens who had sex by age 14 said they have gone through one or more types of abuse in a relationship.

“As a sexuality educator, it is impossible for me to look at this data without acknowledging the cultural implications and perhaps reasons for the statistics,” says Dr. Logan Levkoff, PhD, Author, and Human Sexuality Expert. “I believe the biggest problem is that parents are not doing their job. Parents are not talking to their teens about healthy and responsible sexuality.”

The survey found that parents think they know about their tweens dating experiences, but many are in the dark about what their kids are actually doing. Results show that:
Ø More than three times as many tweens (20%) as parents (6%) admit that parents know little or nothing about the tweens’ dating relationships.
Ø Twice as many tweens report having “hooked up” with a partner (17%) as parents reported of their own 11-14 year old child (8%).

“The survey data demonstrates that although parents maintain they are discussing relationships with their teens, this is not the same as discussing violence and abuse in relationships,” says Cindy Southworth, Director of Technology, National Network to End Domestic Violence. “It is clear parents need to talk to teens/tweens and schools need to encourage healthy relationship programs at an earlier age. The survey indicates that ‘tweens are involved in relationships that they consider serious,’ therefore parents need to talk prevention before dating starts. In the same way that parents currently tell 5- year olds that smoking is bad, they need to say that people who love each other shouldn’t hit/punch/kick/hurt each other.”

Survey Methodology

Liz Claiborne Inc. commissioned Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) to conduct quantitative research among tweens (ages 11-14), parents of tweens, and teens (ages 15-18) who have been in a relationship. The research pertained to young dating relationships and the presence/absence of sexual activity and abusive behaviors. TRU independently sampled the three groups and fielded a customized 15-minute survey online to each group from January 2-18, 2008; TRU chose online as the data-collection method for this research not only because of its high penetration (92%) among this population, but also because of the sensitive nature of the content, allowing young people to answer candidly (i.e., no adult interviewer) within the context of their preferred communications method. A total of 1,043 tweens, 523 parents, and 626 teens completed the survey, resulting in a margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) of ±3.0 percentage points for tweens in total, ±3.9 points for parents, and ±4.1 points for teens (±5.5 among those 17-18).

To view the video about the survey from the CBS Early Show go to http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=4240522n

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