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Survey reveals abuse in teen relationships

  • Story Highlights
  • Survey: Half of tweens (ages 11-14) say they've had dating relationship
  • Ten percent of teens had sex by age 14; 20 percent had sex at 15-16 years of age
  • Sixty-nine percent of those sexually active at 14 have experienced abuse from dates
  • Expert: Teens need dating abuse education to prevent violence
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Teenagers and preteens endure significant levels of different types of abuse in dating relationships -- particularly among those who become sexually active at a young age -- and most parents are unaware of what is going on in those relationships, a survey released Tuesday said.

About 10 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they had had sex by age 14, a new survey says.

Sixty-nine percent of teens who had sex by age 14 reported some type of abuse in a relationship, with slightly more than one-third saying they had been physically abused, according to the survey, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited.

About 10 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they had had sex by age 14, while 20 percent said they had sex between the ages of 15 and 16.

One in five 13- or 14-year-olds in relationships say they know friends and peers who have been "struck in anger" by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sixty-two percent have friends who have been called stupid, worthless or ugly by their dates.

Liz Claiborne Inc. and commissioned the survey. operates the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

"What makes this data so disturbing is the clear and unexpected finding that dating abuse and violence begins at such a young age," said Jane Randel, the vice president of corporate communications for Liz Claiborne Inc., at a news conference to coincide with the survey's release.

And the "parents don't know what's going on," she said.

Nearly half of those preteens or "tweens" who responded said they had been in a dating relationship. The survey considers tweens to be between 11 and 14 years of age.

Slightly more than two-thirds of parents surveyed believe they know "a lot" or "everything" about their tween's relationship, but only 51 percent of tweens agree, the survey said.

One-fifth of tweens say their parents know little or nothing about their dating relationships, while only 6 percent of parents concur.

But despite the number of teens and tweens who say they have experienced abuse or say they know someone who has, only about 51 percent say they are aware of the warning signs of hurtful dating relationship.

And slightly more than half -- 54 percent -- said they would know what to do if a friend came to them for help, the survey said.

Teenagers and tweens need educational programs about abuse in relationships, experts say.

Concern about the issue prompted the National Association of Attorneys General to pass a resolution last month encouraging states to work with local school districts to implement teen dating violence education policies.

The states need to send a strong message about this, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, president of NAAG, said Tuesday at the news conference.

"The best way to do this is to mandate this, in my estimation," as Rhode Island has, he said. "We're fighting for generations here and generations yet to come to end this scourge."

Last year, the Rhode Island General Assembly adopted the "Lindsay Ann Burke Act," which requires each public school district to provide curriculum and policy on teen dating violence and abuse.

The act is named for a 23-year-old woman who was murdered in 2005 by her former boyfriend, the Rhode Island legislature said. Her boyfriend is now serving a life sentence without parole in the state prison for the murder, the Providence Journal reported.

"Teens have a right to know this ... and parents have a right to know as well," Ann Burke, Lindsay's mother, said at the news conference. "Lindsay had a right to know this information too. It's too late to help Lindsay."

The survey, conducted from January 2-18, 2008, questioned 1,043 tweens, 523 parents of tweens and 626 teens through a customized 15-minute online survey. The respondents were invited by e-mail to participate.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for tweens; plus or minus 4.1 for parents of tweens, and plus or minus 3.9 for teens

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