A third of teenage girls report suffering unwanted sexual acts in a relationship and a quarter have been physically assaulted by their boyfriends, an NSPCC survey revealed today.
The survey of 1,353 13-17 year olds across the UK, carried out by the University of Bristol, found nine in ten girls had been in an intimate relationship, and of these one in six had been pressured into having sex and one in 16 had been raped.
The report ‘Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships’ shows that girls were much more likely to encounter harmful behaviour in teenage relationships than boys – more than three in every four girls compared to one in ten boys – and at a younger age.
Powerless to stop abuse
Unlike most boys, girls said they often felt powerless to stop the abuse because they felt scared, guilty or feared they would lose their boyfriend. Having an older boyfriend put them at more risk and girls from a family where an adult had been violent towards them were also at greater risk.
One of the report’s authors, Professor David Berridge, said: “The high rate and harmful impact of violence in teenagers’ intimate relationships, especially for girls, is appalling. It was shocking to find that exploitation and violence in relationships starts so young. This is a serious issue that must be given higher priority by policy makers and professionals.”
Professionals must check young girls’ safety
The report, which was part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund, recommends that child protection professionals should check the safety of young people they have contact with who are in intimate relationships, especially girls with much older boyfriends.
Schools should also do more to raise awareness among pupils of the harm caused by abusive behaviour, and school peer support groups, which mainly tackle bullying, should expand their remit to provide support for young people in violent relationships.
The sexual health of young people