'One in three teenage girls suffer abuse from boyfriends'
A third of teenage girls suffer sexual abuse in a relationship and a quarter experience violence at the hands of their boyfriends, a report revealed today.
The survey by the NSPCC and the University of Bristol found that nearly nine out of 10 girls aged 13 to 17 had been in an intimate relationship.
Of these, one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and one in 16 said they had been raped.
Others said they had been pressured or forced to kiss or sexually touch.
A quarter of girls had suffered physical violence including being slapped, punched or beaten by their boyfriends.
Only one in 17 boys reported being pressured or forced into sexual activity and almost one in five suffered physical violence in a relationship.
Girls said they felt they had to put up with the abuse because they felt scared, guilty or feared they would lose their boyfriend.
The NSPCC said that having an older boyfriend put girls at a higher risk, with three-quarters of them saying they had been victims.
Girls from a family where an adult had been violent towards them were also at greater risk.
For boys, having a violent group of friends made it more likely that they would be a victim, or be violent themselves, in a relationship.
Sian, one of the girls interviewed for the research, said: "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."
Another girl, Tanisha, said about her boyfriend: "He bit me on the face. It was horrible, really disgusting. Because when I am trying to show my point of view, he doesn't appreciate it."
The report, which was part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund, urges schools to raise awareness of relationships where there is harmful, controlling and abusive behaviour.
It recommends that schools' anti-bullying groups should also tackle violent relationships and child protection professionals should consider teenagers who are in intimate relationships, especially girls with older boyfriends.
Professor David Berridge, from the University of Bristol, said: "The high rate and harmful impact of violence in teenagers' intimate relationships, especially for girls, is appalling.
"It was shocking to find that exploitation and violence in relationships starts so young.
"This is a serious issue that must be given higher priority by policymakers and professionals."
Diane Sutton, head of NSPCC policy and public affairs said: "It is shocking to find so many young people view violence or abuse in relationships as normal.
"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.
"Young people need to learn to respect each other.
"Parents and schools can perform a vital role in teaching them about loving and safe relationships, and what to do if they are suffering from violence or abuse."
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "From September 2011, we anticipate that Personal, Social, Health and Economic, which includes sex and relationship education, will become a statutory part of the curriculum from all ages, Key Stage 1 to 4.
"This will ensure that children and young people have not just the factual information, but also the opportunity to develop the skills they need."
He added parents had a "vital role to play" in providing information and advice.