Young women at greatest risk of domestic violence

By Neil Puffett

| 13 April 2011

Young women aged between 16 and 19 are at the highest risk of sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse, the director of public prosecutions has said, creating the "risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence".

NSPCC research shows that violence in teenage relationships is more common than previously thought. Image: Alex Deverill

Speaking to crown prosecutors and agencies dealing with victims of domestic violence, Keir Starmer said that progress has been made in tackling domestic violence, with numbers of incidents falling over the past decade. However, the trend has been bucked by an increase in domestic violence among young people.

Starmer pointed to research showing that women aged between 16 and 19 are at the highest risk of sexual assault (7.9 per cent), stalking (8.5 per cent) and domestic abuse (12.7 per cent).

Meanwhile, a study by the NSPCC in 2009 showed that exploitation and violence in teenage relationships are more common than previously thought.

Twenty-five per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys surveyed reported that they had experienced some form of physical violence, while nearly 75 per cent of girls reported that they had experienced some sort of emotional violence from partners. In addition, more than 75 per cent of girls with an older partner reported that they had experienced physical violence. 

"We are clearly at risk of a whole new generation of domestic violence," Starmer said. He added that, despite a 24 per cent budget reduction, domestic violence must remain a priority for the Crown Prosecution Service and that the way the issue is perceived must change as well.

"Most people are still unaware of the extent of domestic violence and its impact," he said. "And, although greatly reduced, the refrain ‘It's just a domestic’ is still heard far too frequently.

"The steps that we and our criminal justice partners are taking to tackle domestic violence risk limited success unless this complacency is tackled head on. A change in attitude is clearly needed."

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