Date Published: 11 February 2015
Many teenage girls experience sexual coercion in relationships
According to a recent survey of 1001 young people in England, more than 4 in 10 teenage school girls report having experienced sexual coercion. The incidents included being put under pressure to have sex or other sexual activity, and in some cases, this rape. Many of the 13-17-year-olds who took part in the study also mentioned cases of physical attacks, intimidation or emotional abuse from boyfriends. The same study also revealed that a high proportion of teenage boys reported regularly looking at pornography. Approximately 20% of the teenage boys were considered to have 'extremely negative attitudes towards women'.
These alarming findings are the result of research undertaken during 2013-15 by academic researchers from Bristol and Central Lancashire Universities in England. The same research was also undertaken in several other European countries including Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Around 4,500 young people participated in this international research study.
The lead author of the Bristol-based research team was Dr. Christine Barter, NSPCC Senior Research Fellow at Bristol University's School for Policy Studies. Commenting on the outcome of the study, she 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."
In the UK childrens' charity the NSPCC is now asking the government to take action to provide teenagers with appropriate information about healthy relationships.
Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at the NSPCC, said:
" 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.
_ 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."
Key findings from the survey include:
- Highest rates of sexual coercion were reported by teenage girls in England.
- Approx. 22% of the teenage girls in England (who participated in the research) also reopred physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends
- Many of the 100 children interviewed said that the pressure to have sex was so large that it almost became 'normal'
- In some cases rape was not recognized
- Approx. 39% of the teenage boys aged 14-17 yrs in England (who participated in the research) admitted they regularly watched pornography
- Approx. 18% of the teenage boys aged 14-17 yrs in England (who participated in the research) strongly agreed with statements such as "It is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she has been unfaithful" and "Women lead men on sexually and then complain about the attention they get".
- 'Controlling' online behaviour by partners, such as in the form of constant checking of their social network activity, sending threatening messages or telling them who they may associate with was closely associated with young people experiencing violence or abuse from their partner offline.
- Young people who reported violence and abuse in their relationships were at least twice as likely to have sent a sexual image or text compared to those who had not.
This study was part of the STIR (Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships) research project. The study's briefing papers are available to view on the STIR website.
Source: Bristol University, England (UK)