Parents Say They Are Talking About Dating Violence, But Teens Aren't Getting the Message

Parents Say They Are Talking About Dating Violence, But Teens Aren't Getting the Message

Teens across the United States are experiencing high levels of abuse in their dating relationships, and not confiding in parents when abuse occurs. The new poll, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited for the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and Liz Claiborne Inc., finds that nearly one in three teens report threats of violence, or sexual or physical abuse. Nearly one in four report being victimized through technology, and nearly one in two who are in relationships report being controlled, threatened, and pressured to do things they did not want to do.

Yet, despite the fact that parents say they are talking to their children about abuse, two in three daughters surveyed (66 percent) say they have not had a conversation with their parents about dating abuse in the last year.

Four in five parents surveyed (82 percent) feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, but more than half (58 percent) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

“This poll shows a disconnect between what some parents think is happening with their teenage children and what teens say they are experiencing,” said FVPF President Esta Soler. “Not enough parents recognize behaviors that may be warning signs of abuse. It concerns us that about one-third of parents don’t recognize that isolation from family, being kept away from family by a dating partner, and isolation from friends can be danger signs. We are making progress educating parents, but we’d like those numbers to be higher.”

“Dating violence is a huge problem in this country, and we need parents, schools and everyone to take responsibility for helping keep teens safe,” Soler continued. “Macy’s is leading the way with its support for the RESPECT! campaign, which offers the tools parents need to define and promote healthy relationships, and intervene effectively if abuse begins.”

“The study paints a grim picture of the scope of teen dating violence,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on the Violence Against Women Act later that day. “This study highlights the need to reauthorize this critical tool to address dating violence through education and awareness.”

The new survey also found that there appears to be a link between the economic downturn and high levels of teen dating abuse.

“Liz Claiborne Inc. has been working over the past five years through our Love Is Not Abuse campaign to raise the level of awareness on teen dating abuse and communicate the vital importance of education to help teens,” says Jane Randel, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Liz Claiborne Inc. “This new data reveals that 75 percent of teens who have been taught about dating abuse say it has helped them recognize the signs of abuse. But sadly, the data also shows that only a quarter of the teens have ever taken a course.” The study found that more than four in five parents (84 percent) say schools should provide dating and relationship education.

Liz Claiborne Inc.’s MADE (Moms and Dads for Education) to Stop Teen Dating Abuse,, is a growing coalition of concerned parents, teens, education advocates and community leaders urging schools across the country to teach about teen dating violence and abuse. MADE is working with the support of the 50 State Attorneys General and the National Foundation for Women Legislators to introduce curricula on dating violence education in every middle school and high school in every state.

The FVPF and Macy’s have developed RESPECT! Tools – a collection of tips, information and conversation starters to help parents, coaches, teachers, mentors and others talk to children about healthy, loving, respectful relationships. They are available at

The FVPF and Liz Claiborne, Inc. commissioned the study. Teenage Research Unlimited independently sampled teens who have been in a relationship (ages 13-18) and parents of teens (ages 11-18), and fielded a customized 15-minute survey online to both groups from April 10 to May 5, 2009. A total of 1,233 teens and 500 parents completed the survey, resulting in a margin of error (at the 95 percent confidence level) of ±2.8 percentage points for teens in total, and ±4.4 percentage points for parents.

Click here to read the survey findings.

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