UK: 42% of young people know girls whose boyfriends have hit them - new survey

40% know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressured them to have sex

A new ICM survey commissioned by the End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights campaign (EVAW) has found that 42% of young people know girls whose boyfriends have hit them and that 40% know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressurised them to have sex (1).

The survey, carried out amongst people aged 16-20 across the UK, also found that 59% of young people feel they do not have enough information and support to advise those they know who may have been the victims of physical or sexual violence.

The EVAW campaign is calling for the survey to act as a prompt for greater action from the Government in combating violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, including providing far more support and resources for young people in schools, clubs, colleges and work-places.

Over two-thirds (68%) of female respondents to the survey said that they lacked support and information for dealing with violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, while more than half of males (51%) said the same thing.

The Government’s own recently launched Action Plan on Social Exclusion noted poor knowledge and skills among young people in relation to sex, relationships and sexual health risks, leading to a lack of confidence to resist pressure to engage in early sexual activity. However Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) continues to be a non-statutory subject and violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights is not even identified in the existing guidelines.

The End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Campaign Chair Liz Kelly said:

“It’s distressing that violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights is not only widespread, but in young people’s lives so directly, and that a majority of 16-20-year-olds admit they are unsure what advice to give girls they know who have been assaulted.

“We’re calling for a major effort from the Government to combat endemic levels of violence against girls and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in this country.

“If the Government is serious about preventing violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, as well as providing quality support services, it must ensure that young people have the opportunity to discuss it at school - learning about these issues is as much a part of young people’s educational entitlement as learning to read.”

The survey had other surprising results regarding young people’s attitudes towards violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. While an overwhelming majority of respondents recognised that physical violence against a partner is unacceptable (more than 95%), a significant minority of young people held views that condoned sexual violence.

For example, 27% thought it was acceptable for a boy to “expect to have sex with a girl” if the girl has been “very flirtatious”. The same view was held by one in twelve (8%) of young people in the case of situations where a boy had “spent a lot if time and money” on the girl. Eleven per cent thought it was acceptable for a boy to expect to have sex if sexual activity had been initiated and the boy was “really turned on”. In most cases more young men held these views than young Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

These views reflect those revealed in a 2005 ICM poll of British adults that found that around a third of people believed that in some circumstances, such as having been flirtatious or being drunk, a woman could be held responsible for being raped (2).

Liz Kelly added:

“The survey shows that in addition to being exposed to violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, a sizeable minority of young people harbour attitudes that condone it, especially coercive sex.

“Attitudes that underpin gender violence need to be challenged at the same time as doing more to actually safeguard girls and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.”

The survey comes ahead of a new EVAW report on the Government’s record in combating violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights due to be published on Thursday (23 November).

This report, ‘Making the Grade II’, is the second annual assessment of the Government’s performance across various departments. Last year’s report found that the Government had been underperforming massively - and this year’s follow-up will provide an update on this assessment.

Note to editors

1. The poll was conducted online by ICM Research on behalf of the End Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Campaign among 524 people aged 16-20 in November 2006.

2. ICM opinion poll for Amnesty International UK of 1,095 adults in November 2005. Key findings were that between a quarter and a third of people thought a woman was sometimes to blame if she was raped if she had been drinking, flirting or was dressed in sexy clothing.

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