updated 7/8/2008 6:15:36 PM ET 2008-07-08T22:15:36

Schools should educate teenagers — and even children as young as 11 — about abusive dating situations, say teen health and safety advocates and state attorneys general.

"Information, education is empowerment," Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch said at a news conference Tuesday, describing what he called "this plague that people aren't really talking enough about, which is young people being victimized by domestic violence."

Lynch co-sponsored a resolution adopted at the June meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, encouraging states to work with school districts to educate teens in health classes about abusive dating relationships. The resolution notes that these problematic relationships can have elements of verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.

Ann Burke, a health educator whose daughter died as a result of an abusive relationship, said, "The topic of teen dating violence is no different than any other topic we teach in school."

Lindsay Ann Burke was 23 when she died. A Rhode Island law named in her honor requires all school districts to educate seventh through 12th grade students about abusive dating relationships and to have policies that address abusive incidents that occur at school.

"So few of our tweens, and teens for that matter, understand what a healthy relationship looks like," said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of California Davis School of Medicine. She added that many young people "assume the emotional control, the jealousy, possessiveness, all of that is just part of relationships, and we need to change that conversation."

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