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  1. ITV Report

Two in five girls 'coerced into sexual acts'

Two in five girls 'coerced into sexual acts' Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Two fifths of girls aged between 13 and 17 have been forced into sexual behaviour according to new research.

University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies surveyed 1,001 teenagers in England, also looked at incidents and attitudes to abuse through school-based questionnaires to 3,500 young people in Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Italy.

The coercion ranged from rape to being forced to go further than they felt comfortable with. A fifth of girls had suffered violence from a boyfriend.

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.

– Dr Christine Barter, who is based at the University of Bristol's School for Policy Studies

The number of girls sharing sexual images with their partners was also higher in England, although researchers found that many girls viewed this as a positive experience and part of their growing relationship.

This changed for girls if those images were shared by their partner with other people. Boys were less concerned if their sexual images were shared outside of the relationship.

Two in five girls 'coerced into sexual acts' Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Meanwhile, the researchers also found many young boys had watched porn and had negative attitudes to women.

Around 39% of boys surveyed in England admitted they regularly watched pornography and around one in five, 18%, 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.

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.

– Claire Lilley, NSPCC

Help for adults concerned about a child, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000

Help for children and young people, call ChildLine on 0800 1111