A survey completed by readers of teen magazine Bliss, carried out in partnership with Women’s Aid, has found that 1 in 5 girls aged 14 -15 and 1 in 4 aged 16 have experienced violence at the hands of someone they were dating, while nearly a quarter of fourteen year old girls have been forced to have sex or do something sexual against their will whilst dating.
These results are perhaps sadly unsurprising given the attitudes displayed by some boys and young men towards sex and the opposite sex, as Louise reported last month. This isn’t to say, of course, that all boys and young men are naturally violent or domineering, rather that some have absorbed sexist and damaging cultural messages about gender roles, sex and relationships, while peer pressure to conform to these norms no doubt plays a role in the behaviour of some of the individuals concerned. (I can’t find any information on the gender of the perpetrators but I don’t think it’s unfair, given the prevalence of heterosexual relationships among teenagers, to assume that the majority are male).
The survey also uncovered evidence that girls and young women are absorbing damaging messages about their role in relationships:
…the older girls are, the more likely they are to accept being bullied and controlled, whereas they are less likely to confide in parents and ask for help
We can only hope that planned improvements to sex and relationship education will help reverse this situation. In the meantime, Women’s Aid have set up a support service for children and teenagers affected by domestic violence, The Hide Out.