Stopping Teen Dating Abuse By Mobilizing Grassroots Efforts
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Stopping Teen Dating Abuse By Mobilizing Grassroots Efforts

Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love Is Not Abuse campaign with Ruder Finn centers around increasing teen dating violence education in our nation’s schools.

Holmes Report

Liz Claiborne Inc.’s (LCI) Love Is Not Abuse (LINA) campaign with Ruder Finn (RF) centers around increasing teen dating violence education in our nation’s schools to address this serious, yet previously ignored, social problem. In 2010, RF established strategic new partnerships with key players in the dating violence field, leveraged our powerful collaboration with the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) and expanded and strengthened the Love Is Not Abuse (LINA) Coalition – the core of our program – to continue to reinforce LCI as the corporate leader in teen dating violence efforts nationwide.

Program objectives included:
• Initiating legislation to ensure teen dating abuse education is adopted in all high schools through our work with the NFWL;
• Activating, expanding and strengthening the LINA Coalition as a powerful grassroots movement aimed at engaging society;
• Introducing the first education on digital dating abuse by expanding the LINA curriculum and adapting it to the college audience;
• Generating national awareness of LCI’s efforts to combat teen dating abuse by utilizing the work of our LINA Coalition members.

Challenges and Opportunities:

RF’s efforts in putting teen dating abuse issues in the forefront of social concerns over the past five years has triggered many organizations and corporations to focus their attention in this area. We are continually challenged to find new, creative approaches to solving and making a positive impact on this all too pervasive problem that is eroding the quality of teens’ lives.

While the 2009 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that nearly one out of 10 high school students (grades 9-12th grade) has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their dating partner in the past year, an independent survey conducted by TRU Research for LCI has found that nearly one in three teens ages 13-18 report actual sexual abuse, physical abuse or threats of physical abuse. According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimates and LCI data, a staggering 16.7 million teens (ages 13-18) nationwide are affected by dating violence and abuse.

This year, our work with LCI has taken a dramatic turn resulting from our collaboration with the NFWL and our LINA Coalition State Action Leaders and members. The LINA Coalition has worked tirelessly with their local NFWL members to get teen dating violence legislation passed in every state to foster significant social change. We have brought LINA Coalition members who have lost their children to dating violence to the NFWL Annual Conference, granting these individuals a national platform to share their personal story and generate the need for urgency to educate today’s youth about this dangerous issue.

LINA Coalition members have testified in front of state educational committees in support of legislation mandating teen dating violence and abuse education. They have spent hundreds of hours garnering support for local legislation by encouraging people in their communities to reach out to their local senators and representatives. The LINA Coalition has been the driving force behind our strong and continued partnership with the NFWL, making an incisive impact on this issue.

Dating violence and abuse evolves as society evolves, particularly in today’s highly-digital world. The rise of abuse via technology, including social networking sites and text messaging, created a need for new resources to address this widespread problem. To fill an information void on digital abuse, RF expanded the LINA curriculum to include a new lesson on tech abuse, making LINA the first curriculum available to all high schools to include this new information. The LINA curriculum is available to schools and organizations free of charge as a way to combat budgetary concerns and restraints in school districts across the country.

The May murder of University of Virginia (UVA) student Yeardley Love shook the country and catapulted dating violence to forefront of national concern. William McComb, Chief Executive Officer at LCI, personally reached out to UVA president Dr. John T. Casteen III, as well as the presidents of the top 250 colleges and universities nationwide, to offer support in addressing this issue on their campuses. The feedback received from this outreach was overwhelming and confirmed a lack of resources available to colleges, universities and their students. We identified a need for a college dating violence curriculum and assembled a consortium of academic institutions, including Columbia University, George Mason University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), University of Kansas, Virginia Community College System and Northern Virginia Community College, to adapt the LINA curriculum to the college audience. This new edition of LINA is the first dating violence curriculum available for the college audience, from what we can tell.

Strategy and Planning Process:

RF fused LCI’s LINA Coalition with the NFWL by connecting coalition members with elected women in their state who expressed interest in establishing and implementing teen dating violence legislation. We established a structure of 160 LINA Coalition state action leaders to harness the powerful voices of parents, advocate and educators, among others, to recruit new members in their states, draw media attention to the problem and work to implement teen dating violence curricula.

RF worked intensely with LCI to update the LINA curriculum with new information on digital dating violence, a topic previous LCI research had identified as becoming increasingly prevalent. To supplement the LINA curriculum, we forged a partnership with the CDC to successfully create a free online training for teachers called Dating Matters. RF crafted a social media strategy utilizing Facebook and Twitter to expand the reach of LINA Coalition and the LINA campaign, support the work of the NFWL and share information regarding the issue and legislation, as well as attract new online and nonprofit partners.


2010 campaign activities included:

• Targeting states for legislation with the NFWL and supporting ongoing on-the-ground efforts with press conferences, interviews, bylines, letters to the editor, op-eds and meetings with key policymakers;
• Creating a program at the NFWL annual meeting consisting of teen dating violence survivors, parents and LINA Coalition members;
• Updating the LINA curriculum by building a relationship with Wired Safety, the leading nonprofit organization addressing youth cyber safety, and incorporating materials from the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline and “A Thin Line,” MTV’s new online campaign targeted to ending digital abuse;
• Nationally launching the updated LINA high school curriculum at an event in New York City with our powerful partners from the American School Counselor Association and Judge Jeanine Pirro of the nationally-syndicated “Judge Pirro” show that reaches 5.1 million viewers weekly;
• Announcing the new LINA college curriculum at the seventh annual It’s Time To Talk Day (ITTTD), a day dedicated to creating awareness about dating abuse and domestic violence, on December 8. ITTTD included partnerships with Mom Central, Talk Radio News, Youth Radio, Seventeen, NFWL, MTV’s “A Thin Line,” Love is Louder, Verizon Foundation and Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation.


Before this intensive, dedicated campaign, Rhode Island and Texas were the only two states considering legislation on this issue. This past year, legislation has already passed in 13 states, and, according 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, more than 19.4 million students ages 13-18 are now receiving teen dating violence and abuse education through LCI’s work. Our decision to make the LINA curriculum available for free has strengthened the ability of many more of legislative bills to be passed.

LCI has built a solid reputation as respected leader in this field through this work, and this recognition allowed Jane Randel, SVP of LCI, to be the only other guest on with the head of the Office on Violence Against Women (VAWA) for a segment on teen dating violence. Vice President Biden also invited LCI’s CEO to a private event marking the 15th anniversary of VAWA.

As of December 2010, the LINA Coalition’s membership has grown to more than 3,600 members and state action leaders. LINA Coalition members and supporters have helped to establish the LINA curriculum in 10,000 schools and organizations across all 50 states.

Through our innovative work to keep dating abuse in the forefront of public awareness and the pioneering efforts to create educational materials that address this social issue, RF continues to generate significant and substantive visibility about LCI’s involvement in this serious issue, including widespread media coverage in national broadcast – Good Morning America, CBS Evening News and FOX & Friends – print and online –Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Associated Press– among others, which totaled coverage in more than 170 outlets in all major markets.

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