New face of abuse: one in five girls hit by boyfriend

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The Independent Online

Nearly one in five teenage girls has been hit by a boyfriend and a third have experienced domestic abuse at home, research has found. There is also a clear correlation between girls who have been hit by their parents and those hit by a boyfriend.

The survey of 2,000 girls, with an average age of 15, also revealed a high level of acceptance of violence among teenagers, with more than 40 per cent saying they would "consider giving a boy a second chance" if he hit them.

The teen magazine Sugar and the NSPCC, the children's charity, carried out the study, which is the most comprehensive investigation to date into teenagers' experience of domestic abuse.

The survey found that 16 per cent of teenage girls had been hit at least once by a boyfriend, while 4 per cent were hit regularly. Of those who were attacked, more than two-thirds remained with their boyfriend and one-fifth ignored the abuse by him altogether.

Six per cent of girls told researchers that a boyfriend had forced them to have sex and 31 per cent said that cheating gave a male partner the right to be aggressive.

At home, 33 per cent of teenage girls have experienced some form of domestic abuse; 20 per cent have been hit by their parents and 11 per cent have seen their parents hit each other.

One-third of girls who had been hit by their parents said they had also been hit by a boyfriend. A quarter of girls hit regularly by their parents described themselves as "insecure and quiet" compared with just 6 per cent of those who have never been hit.

Annabel Brog, the editor of Sugar, described the findings as truly shocking. She said: "We just don't think it happens - that your average teenage girl would have had a slap from a boy, but they have. I so understand where it's coming from. You're crazy about the guy, he loses it, and then he's apologetic and you say it's OK. But it's not OK.

"I was appalled at how many think it is acceptable. You turn round to me and say is it acceptable for a guy to hit a girl and I would say never. But they were saying maybe if she cheated or flirted or if she's dressing like a tramp."

Ms Brog added: "This survey paints a frightening picture of domestic violence and the link between girls seeing abuse at home and then going on to be hit by a boyfriend themselves. They need to know that nobody has the right to hurt them, nobody has the right to scare them and nobody has the right to abuse them in any way."

One 14-year-old told the magazine that her boyfriend had subjected her to violence for months before her friends persuaded her to end the relationship. She told the study: "He was 16 and really into me, but after a few months, things started to change. He didn't want me spending time with friends or talking to other boys, and one night we started arguing about it. That was the first time he hit me. But he apologised straight away, so I let it go.

"After that the violence got worse. He would kick and punch me, and one time he even pushed me down the stairs. But he always made it seem like my fault and I felt so low I believed him."

John Grounds, the NSPCC's director of communications, said: "Experiencing violence at home or in a relationship can have a devastating impact on a young person's life. This survey reveals a generation of girls, many of whom are growing up and believing that aggression is an acceptable part of life.

"We need to make sure that every young person recognises when they are being abused, that it's wrong and that they can do something to stop it. Every child and young person needs someone to turn to."