Thousands of teenagers look for relationship abuse help

05/02/14

The charity ChildLine says it counselled more than 2,000 under-19s in the last year who needed help dealing with abuse from a current or former partner.

It's the first time the charity has released figures since the definition of domestic abuse was widened to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

Most of the teenagers suffered emotional abuse or physical violence.

A quarter said the main form of abuse was sexual.

Childline counselling sessions 2012-13

    • Emotional - 719 (35%)
    • Sexual - 528 (26%)
    • Physical - 772 (37%)
    • Controlling behaviour - 51 (2%)

The Home Office is running an abuse awareness campaign starring Hollyoaks actors Nikki Sanderson and Jeremy Sheffield.

Their characters in the Channel 4 soap have been involved in a long-running domestic abuse plot.

Sanderson said: 'We've been doing this for nearly a year. For almost eight months people didn't even realise it was a storyline because they didn't recognise that the non-physical aspects of Patrick and Maxine's relationship were domestic violence."

The latest TV advert sees Maxine raped by Patrick and is only being shown after the 9pm watershed.

'Manipulative, subtle'

Fiona Elvines from the charity Rape Crisis says abusive sexual behaviour is a growing problem within "intense" teen relationships.

"We talk to 15 and 16 year-olds who tell us they're quite worried about what's going on with 13 and 14-year-olds," he said.

"Abusive people are very manipulative, they're very controlling and they can be very subtle so you don't necessarily know what's going on at the start of a relationship.

If a perpetrator doesn't want to change, an advert is not going to help him. But in terms of the victims, I'd hope they'd at least identify that this is happening to them. Some women don't see it like that. I didn't
23-year-old domestic abuse victim

"It can escalate and by that point your self-esteem is so low, you're feeling like you're nothing without that person, so it can be really hard to reach out and ask for help."

Elvines says awareness campaigns and soap storylines can be effective, but says she would like more help getting messages about consent into schools.

In its last three annual reports, the Crown Prosecution Service has expressed "concern" that around 30% of domestic violence defendants are under 24.

It does not release figures for the age of victims as records are not reliable enough.

Newsbeat spoke to a 23-year-old who has been advising the Home Office on the adverts.

As a teenager, she was beaten up by her baby daughter's father.

"I put it down to his jealousy of a newborn, but the fourth time he took it too far and knee'd me in the stomach," she said. "I couldn't take it no more.

"If a perpetrator doesn't want to change, an advert is not going to help him.

"But in terms of the victims, I'd hope they'd at least identify that this is happening to them. Some women don't see it like that. I didn't."

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