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Love is Not Abuse; Love is Respect

On Valentine’s Day, a new survey on tween and teen dating relationships commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline was released exploring how relationships among young adolescents are “fueling high levels of dating violence and abuse.” The results of this survey reveal a disturbing truth: a significant number of adolescents, as young as just 11 years old, have either directly experienced dating violence or know someone who has.

According to the survey:

  • Nearly half of teen girls who have been in a relationship (48%) say they have been victims of verbal, physical or sexual abuse by their boyfriends
  • 62 percent of tweens who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused
  • 20 percent of 13-14 year-olds in relationships say they know friends who have been struck in anger by a boyfriend or girlfriend

And yet…

Only half of all tweens (51%) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship

This last statistic immediately caught my attention and caused me to wonder, if tweens/teens were educated early on to recognize the signs of abuse, what impact could this have on the reported incidence of abuse? If more children and those closest to them, including parents and teachers, knew how to recognize the signs of abuse, what impact could this have? As the research shows, dating violence and abuse impacts us all and is beginning to appear at an alarmingly young age. There is one simple and important thing each of us can do starting today to end this cycle of abuse, and that is to educate ourselves on the warning signs.

Below is a list of 10 of the most commons signs of domestic violence and abuse, compiled by Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim assistance organization. I encourage you to take just a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them and share it with your family and friends.

Does your partner ever…

  • Accuse you of cheating and being disloyal? 
  • Make you feel worthless? 
  • Hurt you by hitting, choking or kicking you? 
  • Intimidate and threaten to hurt you or someone you love? 
  • Threaten to hurt himself or herself if he or she does not get what he or she wants? 
  • Try to control what you do and whom you see? 
  • Isolate you? 
  • Pressure or force you into unwanted sex? 
  • Control your access to money? 
  • Stalk you, including calling you constantly or following you?

The results of this survey, while disturbing, provide valuable insight into how and when to intervene. We need to educate parents, teachers and tweens about the connection between early sexual experiences and increased levels of dating violence and abuse. Please take this post as invitation not only to learn the signs, but also to respond with any additions to the list, anecdotes, thoughts or feedback based on your experiences or relevant reports/studies you have discovered.

For more information about Liz Claiborne’s “Love is not abuse” program, please visit

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