Two In Five Teenage Girls Suffer Sexual Violence From Partners, Study Shows

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Two in five girls, some aged just 13, have experienced sexual violence from a partner, according to a new study into teenage relationships.

The research, led by academics at the University of Bristol and University of Central Lancashire, also showed one in five girls aged between 13 and 17 in England suffered physical violence from their boyfriend.

The study, which surveyed 1,001 teenagers in England, also looked at incidents and attitudes to abuse through school-based questionnaires to 3,500 young people in Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Italy.

Rates of interpersonal violence and abuse (IPVA) were found to be higher for girls in England than in the other countries, except reported instances of emotional abuse in Italy. But English teenage boys reported the lowest rates of IPVA overall, although 14% said they had suffered sexual abuse.

Nearly half - 48% - of girls reported emotional and online abuse within their relationship and instances of sexting - sharing sexual images and texts - appear far higher in England.

Some 48% of teenage girls admitted having received messages and two in five admitting to sending them, with around one in four, 27%, saying it was because they felt pressured to do so.

Lead author Dr Christine Barter, who is based at the University of Bristol's School for Policy Studies, said: "Our research findings show that across Europe violence and abuse, both offline and online, in young people's relationships constitutes a major problem, yet in most countries it remains unrecognised, leaving young people with little support or appropriate services."

Meanwhile, the researchers also found many young boys had watched porn and had negative attitudes to women.

Around 39% of boys surveyed in England admitted they regularly watched pornography and around one in five, 18%, strongly agreed with statements such as, "It is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she has been unfaithful" or "Women lead men on sexually and then complain about the attention they get".

The research, funded by the European Commission, has prompted children's charity the NSPCC to call on the Government for action to ensure teenagers understand healthy relationships.

Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at the charity, said: "The high rates of sexual coercion discovered need to be addressed through education and awareness raising that challenges attitudes and helps change behaviour. We need to nurture children to have positive relationships based on mutual respect.

"The levels of victimisation revealed by this research shows action is urgently needed by the government to make updated sex and relationship education a statutory right for every child and young person. There needs to be a greater focus in schools on topics such as sexual exploitation and violence against girls and young women, as part of a balanced curriculum."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said urgent action was needed to address the "shocking levels of violence and coercion" revealed in the report.

Ms Cooper said: "That must include stronger action in schools, colleges and universities and by the police - both to prevent violence in the first place and to crack down when it occurs.

"For over two years now the Labour Party has called on the Government to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education in all primary and secondary schools. This should have zero tolerance to violence at its core and teach young people about the importance of sexual consent and respect in relationships.

"Compulsory sex and relationship education will be in a Labour manifesto. I hope other parties will also recognise the importance of education in tackling violence against women and girls."