Domestic Abuse – is it all about Adults?


This week sees the re-launch of the Home Office “This is Abuse” website in anticipation of the media campaign launch on 1 September as detailed in the latest Violence Against Women and Girls Newsletter.

It is planned that the campaign will be an innovative social media launch. It is therefore both timely and fitting to consider domestic abuse and adolescence in this week’s blog on the suggestion of former colleague and fellow Tweeter @jojomci.

I have previously considered domestic abuse and children in a criminology essay which I published here.

This blog is heavy on stats and light on commentary. I make no apology, the numbers will speak for themselves.

Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships

A partnership between the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Bristol University funded by the Big Lottery in the UK resulted in a three year project ending with publication of a report Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships in 2009.

This project worked with a 12 strong Young People’s Advisory Group made up of 14 year olds and a Professional Advisory Group. The research included self completion surveys (n1353) and interviews (n91).

Respondents were almost 50/50 boys and girls and 75% were 15 -18 years.

The findings look at Physical Violence, Emotional Abuse and Sexual Violence.

Key Findings

“Physical violence is a common event in the life of adolescents, rather than an isolated incident.”

History of Family Violence

  • 13% girls 9% boys had experienced violence within their house or family
  • 20% girls and 10% of boys had experienced one adult being violent to another in the family

Physical Violence

History of Relationships and Physical Violence

  • 88% of all of the girls and boys had experienced an intimate relationship, whether long term, casual or one off such as at a party
  • 25% girls and 18% boys who had experienced a relationship had experienced physical force
  • 11% girls and 4% boys experienced what they would describe as severe physical violence
  • Girls were 3 times more likely to experience severe physical violence repeatedly than boys

Impact of Physical Violence

  • 75% girls and 14% boys who experienced physical violence reported a negative impact
  • Majority of girls impacted negatively reported more than one negative impact on their wellbeing
  • 2/3 of boys and girls experienced violence in only one relationship, 1/3 boys and girls experienced violence in a few relationships
  • For 42% girls and 61% boys the violence stopped, for 38% girls and 30% boys the violence remained the same and for 20% girls and >1% boys

 Help and Support

  • 54% girls and 34% boys sought help from a friend
  • 8% girls and 7% boys told a parent or carer or sibling, even fewer sought help from another adult

 Risk Factors

  • having an older partner
  • 83% with no family violence experienced no partner violence, 36% those who experienced family violence also experience partner violence and are more likely to experience severe violence and violence on a more frequent basis.
  • same sex partners are at greater risk of physical partner violence

Emotional Abuse

History of Emotional Abuse

  • 75% girls and 50% boys experienced some emotional abuse
  • 47% girls and 30% boys report being made fun of
  • 42% girls and 29% boys report being constantly checked up on
  • 30% girls and 13% boys report being told who they could see and/or what they could do
  • 36% girls and 20% boys reported being shouted at, screamed in the face or called hurtful names
  • 35% girls and 15% reported negative comments about appearance, body, friends or family

 Impact of Emotional Abuse

  • 69% girls and 94% boys report no impact from emotional abuse 

Help and Support

  • 57% girls and 38% boys told a friend 

Risk Factors

  • age increased the likelihood of emotional abuse
  • same sex partners are at increased risk

Sexual Violence

History of Sexual Violence

  • 31% girls and 16% boys reported sexual violence
  • 16% girls and 6% boys reported being pressured into sexual intercourse

 Impact of Sexual Violence

  • 70% girls and 12% boys reported a negative impact of sexual violence
  • 75% girls and 47% boys had experienced sexual violence only once, 25% girls and 31% boys experienced sexual violence a few times
  • 46% girls and 44% boys said the violence stopped

 Help and Support

  • 48% girls and  44% boys informed a friend, 8% girls and 4% boys informed a sibling, very few informed an adult

 Risk Factors

  • 18% of those with no history of family violence compared with 40% of those with a history of family violence reported experiencing sexual violence
  • Same sex partners experience a greater level of sexual violence

“… given the incidence figures in this report, partner violence may be a more commonly experienced problem for teenagers than bullying, although it has received nowhere near the level of recognition or attention.”

Learning from America

Prior to this report, little was known of this area of abuse in the UK. By contrast there was more knowledge in America. The findings of this report are consistent with much of the earlier American research:


Considering some of the issues looked at in last week’s post on gender it seems that in adolescent relationships abuse and violence has a disproportionate impact on girls but that there is greater gender symmetry than for adults.

Risk Factors

Risk factors may increase a teenager’s susceptibility to violence in intimate relationships. These include:

  • previous experiences of parental domestic abuse
  • physical and sexual abuse
  • violent peer groups
  • parental neglect

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