Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 11:51 UK

'Many girls' abused by boyfriends

Generic picture of teenage girl (posed by model)
The NSPCC says many teenage girls are in abusive relationships

A third of teenage girls suffer sexual abuse in a relationship and a quarter experience violence at the hands of their boyfriends, a survey suggests.

Nearly 90% of 1,400 girls aged 13 to 17 had been in intimate relationships, the NSPCC and University of Bristol found.

Of these, one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and one in 16 said they had been raped.

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One in three of the teenage girls questioned in England, Scotland and Wales said their boyfriends had tried to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity by using physical force or by bullying them.

The NSPCC said the unwanted sexual activity ranged from kissing to intercourse.

A quarter of the girls interviewed for the survey had suffered physical violence, including being slapped, punched or beaten.

Only one in 17 boys reported having been pressured or forced into sexual activity but almost one in five had suffered physical violence in a relationship.

Samantha, not her real name, was just 14 when her boyfriend of 15 tried to control her life.

Things were fine to start with but then he became very possessive and wouldn't leave me alone.

I would get bombarded with phone calls and texts from him demanding to know where I was, what I was doing and who I was with.

It just became too much. I couldn't get away from him. After five months I ended the relationship and he just couldn't accept it.

He started hanging around near our house and following me wherever I went. Then he got really nasty and began telling people we had had sex, which wasn't true.

Finally there was a confrontation one day at school and he hit me in the face. It started a big fight because some of my friends were with me but fortunately staff broke it up.

Then I didn't see him for a while and eventually things quietened down.

Some of my friends have experienced the same sort of thing but not all boys are like that.

Professor David Berridge, from the University of Bristol, described the findings as "appalling".

"It was shocking to find that exploitation and violence in relationships starts so young," he said.

"This is a serious issue that must be given higher priority by policymakers and professionals."

Diane Sutton, head of NSPCC policy and public affairs, said: "Boys and girls are under immense peer pressure to behave in certain ways and this can lead to disrespectful and violent relationships, with girls often bearing the brunt."


Jo Sharpen works for the Greater London Domestic Violence Project. She trains police, teachers and other people who work with teenagers to look out for signs of adolescent domestic abuse.

She said: "As a society we don't educate young people about what a healthy relationship is.

"Young people are confused about this and it isn't the first survey to show very worrying attitudes about violence being appropriate or people expecting sex.

"Teenagers are just as likely to be victims as adults."

'Schools have a role'

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said personal, social, health and economic studies - including relationship education - would become statutory for children of all ages in England by September 2011.

"Parents have a vital role to play in providing information and advice on sex and relationships," he said.

"They should lead on instilling values in their children, but schools have a clear role in giving young people accurate information and developing the skills they need to make safe and responsible choices."

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