gender politics, women's health

Teaching teens that “Love is Not Abuse”

Since 1991 Liz Claiborne Inc. has been using their Love is not Abuse campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence in the U.S. The company is also a part of the Corporate Alliance to end Partner Violence and is no stranger to sponsoring national campaigns. Their most recent contribution to the anti-domestic violence front is an iPhone app.

This new app, called the Love is not Abuse (LINA) app, is targeted towards parents with the intent of teaching them what warning signs to look for from their child’s romantic partner. How the app works is pretty simple, it simulates an abusive relationship for the parent to experience what their child(ren) may  be going through. It focuses on technology based abuses, for example it will send abusive texts, threatening voice messages and even “spy” on their Facebook page. The intent is to show parent the types of scenarios that are actually happening in teen relationships such as threats to post embarrassing pictures online, harassing text messages, even pressure to un-friend people in social network settings. “Parents are trained through the app which was developed with the help of psychotherapist Jill Murray, to understand and identify characteristics f an abusive relationship.”

Many critics of the app ask why anyone would voluntarily invite such harassment into their lives, but the sad fact is most parents don’t talk to their children about dating violence. According to recent research 25% of teens say they been called names, harassed or been put down by their partner through cell phones or texting. 10% admit to having been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Despite this parents are still more likely to spend time educating their children about sex, drugs and alcohol; but NOT dating violence. If this app serves as nothing more than a “Hey Jenny, look at this crazy app I just got!” conversation starter then it is already more effective then silence.

Another critique I noticed while reading about the app, one that I wholeheartedly agree with, is why it is directed solely at parents. Given the nature of the app, it could be used as a very informative teaching tool for teens themselves to recognize warning behaviors in their partners as well as friends. The more all people understand the dangers and warning signs of an abusive relationship the sooner they can provide help; to both the abuser and abused.


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