Many girls abused by boyfriends

A third of teenage girls suffer sexual abuse at the hands of their boyfriend

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.

The government is developing guidance for schools on gender bullying but says it is ‘vital’ parents advise children.

One in three of the teenage girls questioned 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.

Professor David Berridge, from the University of Bristol, said: ‘It was shocking to find that exploitation and violence in relationships starts so young.’

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.’

Many girls said they put up with abuse because they felt scared, guilty or feared they would lose their boyfriend. One told researchers: ‘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.’

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 by September 2011.

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