Four in 10 teenage girls 'coerced into sex acts'

Report finds many have experienced physical abuse from boyfriends

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The Independent Online

Thousands of teenage girls in England are being coerced into sexual activity with their boyfriends and many have experienced physical abuse from their partner, a report analysing adolescent relationships has found.

The study found more than four in ten teenage schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England have experienced sexual coercion.

The research, conducted by academics at the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies and the University of Central Lancashire, also found one in five girls in England suffered physical violence from their boyfriend.

The study, which surveyed 1,001 teenagers in England, looked at incidents and attitudes to abuse through school-based questionnaires to 3,500 young people in Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Italy.

It found the rates of violence were higher for girls in England than in other countries. Fourteen per cent of boys said they had suffered sexual abuse.

Nearly half - 48 per cent - of girls reported instances of emotional and online abuse from their partner.

Instances of sexting - sharing sexual images and texts – were far higher in England. Some 48 per cent of teenage girls admitted having received messages and two in five admitting to sending them, with around one in four saying it was because they felt pressured to do so.

Over a third of young boys in England admitted watching porn and held negative attitudes towards women, the researchers found. One in five strongly agreed with statements such as, "It is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she has been unfaithful" or "Women lead men on sexually and then complain about the attention they get".

The research, funded by the European Commission, has prompted children's charity the NSPCC to call on the Government for action to ensure teenagers understand healthy relationships.

Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at the charity, said: "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.

"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."

Additional reporting by PA