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Thus, the “69%” figure actually referred to around 30 of the 1,043 youths surveyed who had experienced even the mildest negative interaction with a partner with whom they had gone further than kissing or making out. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2000.

Claiborne’s survey found the percentages of teens suffering verbal and emotional abuse, violent threats, and extreme jealousy from a dating or “hookup” partner rare as well.

First, the extreme exaggerations marketers employ lend the impression that violence is normative to teen relationships.

They stereotype even very young students as promiscuous, violent, and cruel.

Given that intimate partner violence rises sharply as socioeconomic status falls[7] and that teenagers and young adults suffer considerably higher rates of poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage than older adults, teens appear to experience fairly low rates of intimate partner violence for their demographics. The long-term measures available such as FBI Uniform Crime Reports,[10] Monitoring the Future,[11] and the National Crime Victimization Survey[7][8] variously agree that murder, rape, robbery, assault, sexual assault, and kidnapping involving both younger and older teens has dropped dramatically over the last 10 to 20 years, most to all time lows.

Intimate partner violence has fallen the most dramatically.

Abuses appear to be rare and dropping, not epidemic and rising. Questionnaire responses from the nation’s high school seniors (annual).

Around one in 50 younger teens and one in 30 older teens report intimate partner violence in a year’s time, levels similar to those among adults. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 2007. Survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, (February 2005). [13] All references to Teen Research Unlimited survey questions and results for Liz Claiborne, Inc., are from note 9.

“The number of tweens [ages 11 to 12] in abusive relationships (is) staggering.”[12] NAAG’s 2008 resolution agreed: “Teen dating violence has become a prevalent problem in high schools, junior high schools and middle schools throughout our country…Recent studies have shown that teen dating violence is starting” as young as ages “11 to 14.”[1] Investigation reveals that program advocates have used several questionable techniques with troubling implications for responsible programming to drastically exaggerate the prevalence of teen dating abuse.

In particular, advocates have extended the definition of “teen dating violence” far beyond NAAG’s criterion of “a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior of one person over another within a romantic relationship including verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.”[1] Program advocates’ first exaggeration technique, aside from including figures for 20-24 year-olds (an age group with considerably higher violence rates) as “teenage dating violence” and continuing to repeat higher 1990s numbers, is to cite one-time behaviors rather than those documenting a “pattern of controlling and abusive behavior.” As will be seen, a girl saying something to make the boy sitting next to her in class feel bad about himself could constitute “dating abuse” by Liz Claiborne’s definition.

Commonly cited numbers reported in the press and by program advocates, summarized by the American Bar Association’s Teen Dating Violence Initiative,[3] indeed appear alarming.

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