Love Is Not Abuse – Please Talk to Your Teens!!

Do you know what an abusive dating relationship looks like? Would you recognize the signs if your child was involved in one? Are you sure?

Two years ago a very close friend of mine discovered that his son (yes folks this happens to boys too) -his brilliant, talented, confident son – had spent his last semester at college involved in an abusive relationship. The girl he was dating sent him an unbelievable number of emails alternating between” I love you”, “I hate you”, “you’re everything to me”, “you’re nothing…none of your friends like you – I’m all you have”…etc. The stream of emails was almost constant…and in between there were phone calls and voice mails, all intended to build him up and then break him down until his self image became nothing more than a reflection of whatever mood she was in.

My friend found out about this – not by talking to his son – but when campus police called to notify him that they had received a tip that his son had left campus, taken a train to a nearby city, checked himself into a hotel and was talking about suicide. Ironically, it was his girlfriend who had called this in. Even sadder – despite the abuse (and warnings from his school) he could not stay away from her which resulted in his forced withdrawal from college. Although he was eventually allowed to return, the damage was done.

How could my friend not have seen that his son was in trouble?? Why didn’t he talk to him? Unfortunately his experience is not uncommon. Studies have shown that more than half of all parents do not recognize the warning signs. According to Cindy Southworth, founder of the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Technology Project, “one of the foremost challenges in dating abuse is understanding that using power and control over a dating partner often goes beyond physical violence”. Jane Randel of Liz Claiborne Inc. adds: “Despite the fact that one in four teens are victimized through technology, our research shows that parents are dangerously out of touch with the high levels of dating violence and abuse taking place in their children’s lives”. In truth, we can’t afford to be.

Fortunately parents, there is something that can help. Liz Claiborne Inc. recently launched Love Is Not Abuse (LINA), an iPhone app that provides parents with a rare insight into what it feels like for their teen to be a victim of digital dating abuse. The app simulates the abuse that many teens endure in their dating relationships. For just a few minutes, application users will receive text messages, emails and phone calls from a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ that mimic the actual communications abused teens receive – in many cases, all day and night.

Love Is Not Abuse provides parents with facts on teen dating abuse, helps them recognize abusive behaviors, directs them too immediate help if they suspect their child is in an abusive relationship and offers tips on how to talk to their teen about dating abuse. “When parents know concrete examples of what can constitute dating abuse, they are better-equipped to support their children.

So now we know…and now it’s up to you and me to do something! Remember, teen dating abuse comes in many forms, making it difficult to recognize. It does not always leaves scratches or bruises, so parents need also to be aware of subtle signs that their teen may be under attack through technology. And we need to acknowledge that this doesn’t make it any less serious.

Dating abuse can result in injury, death and mental health problems including suicidal thoughts, substance use, disordered eating and depression. My friend was lucky – he got the call before his son took his life… but it could just as easily have gone another way. Please talk to your kids and establish a support system before the abuse happens. Remind them that LOVE SHOULDN’T HURT ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR is NEVER OK.


The Love is Not Abuse app is available FOR FREE at the iTunes App store

Many thanks to Leslie Loves Veggies and Mom Central Consulting for sharing this information so we could share it with our readers.

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


4 Responses to “Love Is Not Abuse – Please Talk to Your Teens!!”

  1. Thanks for sharing Stef!! Any teen can become involved in an abusive relationship. Boys can be just as vulnerable. What a wonderful post! I just tweeted it!

    Leslie Loves Veggies

  2. Totally tweeted but this makes me super glad my k ids are only 6 and 3. I’m not ready for all of this.

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Me neither! It’s great that the internet opens up a whole new world…but wow that “drink me” sign led Alice down a heck of a rabbit hole. Lucky for her she survived.

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