We are failing our youth

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When it comes to protecting our children from abusive dating habits, by way of teaching them about healthy relationships, sex or even interpersonal boundaries, this is what’s happening all around the country: we are failing our youth.
And if parents don’t stop with the “not my kid” mentality, what should come as a strong warning will end up paving the way to what some experts are calling “a new wave of disturbing abuse” in the future.
The alarming results of a new survey show that not only are tweens (age 11-14) and teens (age 15-19) pairing off into couples, they are having sex (including oral sex) and getting beaten and battered in the process. And if that isn’t bad enough, their parents are clueless about what’s really going on.
Consider these actual findings—and these are not opinions; the survey asked about tweens and teens’ own or their friends’ dating practices, as well as the parents’ beliefs about what’s going on:
When it comes to tweens:

  • 72-percent say dating begins by age 14.
    What’s worse: Nine-percent say dating even begins at age 10 or younger.
  • 28-percent say having sex (going all the way) is part of the relationship.
    What’s worse: More than one in four kids say some type of sex is part of dating.
  • 24-percent say physical dating violence is a serious problem for tweens their age.
    What’s worse: Only 51-percent know the warning signs of a bad relationship.
  • 69-percent who had sex by age 14 experienced one or more forms of dating abuse.
    What’s worse: 36-percent of them were pressured into have oral sex they didn’t want.

When it comes to teens:

  • 34-percent say an angry partner has hit, kicked or choked them.
    What’s worse: The earlier teens begin having sex, the higher their level of abuse.
  • 42-percent say physical dating violence is a serious problem for teens their age.
    What’s worse: This finding is almost double that of tweens and shows these serious problems increase with age.
  • 42-percent reported having had sex.
    What’s worse: 44-percent of teens were pressured into having oral sex or intercourse when they did not want to.
  • 58-percent who had sex by age 14 report tracking behavior.
    What’s worse: Tracking behavior consists of demands to know where a partner is at all times, or whom he/she is with, and cell phones are being used for such purposes.

When it comes to parents:

  • 70-percent aren’t talking about dating relationships because their kids are “too young.”
    What’s worse: That’s a weak excuse for parents who are too embarrassed or intimidated to do what they know they should.
  • Parents overestimate what they think they know about their tweens’ dating habits.
    What’s worse: While 20-percent of tweens say their parents know “little or nothing” about their dating—only 6-percent of parents admitted this was the case.
  • Only 8-percent reported their child has “hooked up.”
    What’s worse: Twice as many tweens (17-percent) report having hooked up, showing that parents are woefully ignorant when it comes to their own children’s behavior.
  • 39-percent of parents think teens in general “make out,” while only 17-percent of parents think their teen has or will.
    What’s worse: Parents who refuse to face facts may pay dearly, and jeopardize their child’s health, safety and even his/her life.
  • That’s what I took away from a press conference held July 8 at the
    National Press Club
    in Washington, DC. While I didn’t find the result surprising, having experienced many of the same things discussed therein myself, it is nonetheless sad and scary that 32 years later, parents are still not doing their jobs.
    In my next post, you’ll meet Sami, a teen whose ex-boyfriend sexually abused her in the woods behind her school and in her own home. You’ll also meet the Burkes, whose daughter Lindsay was viciously killed when she tried to end an abusive relationship.
    Their stories will inspire you to do what you can to help yourself and others—especially your own children.
    The national survey was commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and LoveisRespect.org. More than 2,000 online interviews were conducted, and demographic quotas were used to achieve a gender, age and ethnic mix that would align with U.S. Census data.


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