Physical violence and abuse also a factor in 20% of relationships, new research finds
Research published today reveals that more than 4 in 10 teenage schoolgirls in England* have experienced sexual coercion. Most were pressured to have sex or other sexual activity, but some cases included rape.
Controlling online behaviour by partners, through constant checking of their social network activity, sending threatening messages or telling them who they could be ‘friends’ with was closely associated with young people experiencing violence or abuse from their partner offline.
Pornography influencing teen attitudes to sex and relationships
The researchers found that a high proportion of teenage boys regularly viewed pornography and 1 in 5 harboured extremely negative attitudes towards women.
Pressure to send sexual images
England had the highest rate for children exchanging sexual images and messages with a partner among the countries surveyed.
More than 4 in 10 (44%) girls and just under a third (32%) of boys in England had sent them to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Just over 40% of girls who sent them said they had been shared by a partner with others.
Just under half of girls and boys in England had received them. Around a quarter (27%) of girls sent messages and images because they felt pressurised by a partner to do so.
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.
Sex education urgently needs updating
We are calling on the government to take action to ensure teenagers get a clearer message about healthy relationships.
Claire Lilley, head of child safety online 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.”
The highest rates of sexual coercion were reported by teenage girls in England. Around 1 in 5 (22%) also said they had suffered physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends, including slapping, punching, strangling and being beaten with an object. In interviews with 100 of the children, many said the pressure to have sex was so great it almost became ‘normal’ and in some cases rape was not recognised.