Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Teenage domestic violence tackled by advert campaign

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One of the Home Office's new television adverts directed by Shane Meadows

An advertising campaign is being launched to raise awareness of domestic violence in teenage relationships.

The adverts will target boys and girls aged 13 to 18, urging them not to use violence against their girlfriends.

The £2m TV, radio, internet and poster campaign is part of a government strategy announced last year to reduce violence against women and girls.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said it was essential to change attitudes in order to stop abuse against females.

He said: "We want to see young people in safe and happy relationships and this means tackling attitudes towards abuse at an early age, before patterns of violence can occur.

"We hope this campaign will help teenagers to recognise the signs of abuse and equip them with the knowledge and confidence to seek help, as well as understanding the consequences of being abusive or controlling in a relationship."

Controlling behaviour

The campaign follows research by the NSPCC.

The study suggested a quarter of girls aged 13 to 17 had experienced physical violence from a boyfriend and a third had been pressured into sexual acts they did not want.

It's a message I fundamentally believe in, and it's what most of my films have been about - finding another way of leading your life
Shane Meadows
Film director

The children's charity said it was alarmed by the number of young people who viewed abuse in relationships as normal.

Diana Sutton of the NSPCC said she hoped the campaign would encourage teenagers to come together to tackle the problem.

"Many teenagers perhaps don't talk to their parents and maybe it's not that comfortable to talk to a teacher," she said.

"So any initiative like this that reaches out and gets them to talk about it amongst their peer group will be very important, and really say it's absolutely not appropriate to punch, or hit, or slap, or pressure your partner into early sex."

One version of the advert shows two teenagers lying on a bed watching television.

When the girl gets a text message from a friend the boy dislikes he loses his temper, throwing her phone to the floor and grabbing her by the hair.

'Powerful lesson'

The TV advert's award-winning director Shane Meadows said he wanted to highlight the problem of emotional violence, including verbal insults and controlling behaviour such as monitoring text messages.

"It's a message I fundamentally believe in, and it's what most of my films have been about - finding another way of leading your life. It's a very powerful and valuable lesson," he said.

Christine Barter from Bristol University, who led the study, said long-term intervention in schools was also needed.

"[They need] to look at what is happening in peoples' relationships, to say to them, 'This is a serious issue, we do take your relationship seriously, we take the concerns you have in those relationships seriously'.... to challenge the violence and intimidation and control that is in those teenage relationships as it is in adult relationships."

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said the extent and pervasiveness of abuse outlined in the report were "quite startling".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme many girls had an expectation that "boys will be boys" and violence would happen anyway.

"It is very interesting, the way it happens. It's much more about mind control. Through the language used, 'He doesn't allow me to do this, he wouldn't like me doing this'.

"It's as if the boy speaking to them like this is a way of them valuing them. As if they think, 'He cares enough to be jealous', and that is what is particularly worrying."



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