One third of girls age 13-17 have been forced or pressured into “unwanted sexual acts”, and a further one quarter have suffered physical violence by their boyfriends, according to a study by Bristol University and the NSPCC. A smaller number of boys reported being pressured or forced into sex or suffering physical violence in a relationship.
To break it down:
- Nine out of 10 girls said they’d been in an intimate relationship
- Of these, one in six said they’d been pressured into “unwanted intercourse”
- And one in 16 had been raped
- Others had been “pressured or forced to kiss or sexually touch
- One in four girls had suffered physical violence such as being slapped, punched, or beaten by their boyfriends
- One in 17 boys reported being pressured or forced into sexual activity
- Almost one in five boys reported suffering physical violence in a relationship
Girls were much more likely to find this behaviour harmful — more than three in every four compared to one in ten boys. Girls also reported that they suffered more repeatedly in relationships and at a younger age.
Sian, one of the girls interviewed for the research, said: “I only went out with him for a week. And then because I didn’t want to have sex he just started picking on me and hitting me.”
Another girl, Tanisha, said about her boyfriend: “He bit me on the face. It was horrible, really disgusting. Because when I am trying to show my point of view, he doesn’t appreciate it.”
Unlike most boys, girls often felt they had little choice but to put up with the abuse because they felt scared, guilty, or feared they would lose their boyfriend.
Having an older boyfriend was found to put girls at a higher risk, with three-quarters of them saying they had been victims. Girls from a family where an adult had been violent towards them, one of their parents, or siblings, were also at greater risk.
For boys, having a violent group of friends made it more likely that they would be a victim, or be violent themselves, in a relationship.
One of report’s authors, Professor David Berridge from the University’s School for Policy Studies, 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.”
So this means that before reaching even the age of being able to vote, a huge number of girls in this country will have already found themselves on the receiving end of male violence.
Meanwhile, you might remember the media’s – and particularly the Daily Mail’s awful response to Harriet Harman’s proposals to introduce lessons in schools which would address some of these issues. Mail Watch points out the newspaper appears to have made a screeching u-turn on this issue:
Bizarrely, the two articles are based around very similar findings and discuss exactly the same thing (school lessons on domestic abuse), yet the angle has completely reversed. Nothing has changed except the editorial stance: in both instances, someone has said that domestic abuse is a problem and that the key to reducing it is education.
Quite right, too, and the Mail should be applauded for apparently waking up to the ghastly problem of domestic violence. But how can such sudden change of heart be reconciled with their past form? Was last month’s disgusting tirade against women and the dismissal of sexual abuse motivated simply by the fact that the issue had been raised by a female Labour MP and therefore had to be derided at all costs, but now the politically neutral NSPCC have said the same thing it’s acceptable to agree?