More than half of young people experiencing controlling behaviour in relationships

6 March 2017

  • New Define the Line study by Refuge and Avon reveals the changing face of non-physical violence amongst young people and confusion in understanding the difference between caring and controlling behaviour
  • A third (32%) said that how a controlling partner had treated them prevented them living their life, and 2 in 5 (39%) think these types of behaviours are not talked about enough
  • The research is launched in conjunction with the Avon Foundation for Women’s largest single donation, nearly £2million globally, for female victims of gender based violence

Avon Refuge infographicDefine the Line, a new research study launched today by Avon, in partnership with national domestic violence charity Refuge, shows that almost two fifths (39%) of 16-21 year-old girls think coercive and controlling behaviours in relationships have become normalised because of the amount of abuse they see in society and media, and alarmingly 8% said they haven’t had any exposure to healthy relationships based on equality and respect.

Young adults said they think that non-physical coercion or control happens in 1 in 4 relationships, but the reality is even more worrying. More than half (56%) said they have experienced controlling behaviours from a partner, and more than a quarter (26%) said that a friend, or someone they knew, had been a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship. This is the tip of the iceberg with almost 1 in 3 (31%) young people saying they find it difficult to define the line between a caring action and a controlling one.

The consequential impact of being with a controlling partner is significant – potentially harming the individual in the long term. Nearly half (49%) of young adults said that experiencing these ongoing behaviours made them feel intimidated, humiliated, or worthless. Girls felt most significantly affected (63% in comparison to 34% of boys), and a third of young people (32%) said that how a controlling partner had treated them prevented them living their life – stopping them socialising or going to work. More than two in five (44%) of girls said that the experience negatively changed the way they behaved, in comparison to a quarter (23%) of boys.

The Avon-funded research also found:

  • Half (50%) of 16-21 year olds say it is hard to spot the signs of controlling behaviours in others
  • 84% of girls said they think people experiencing this behaviour feel it is their fault, compared to 65% of boys
  • 2 in 5 (39%) of young people think that coercive and controlling behaviours are not talked about
  • Over a third (37%) would not know where or who to turn to for support if they were experiencing the issue

The study identified family and friends as the primary source from whom young adults access support.  This therefore puts pressure on them to be fully equipped to be able to help support young people in their relationships. 16-21 year olds said they would turn to those closest to them for help because they want personalised advice from someone they know and trust. Over half (58%) of young adults said they mainly learn about positive relationships from their friends and 52% from their parents.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 22.09.57Sandra Horley, CEO of Refuge, commented: “It is shocking that one in two young women has experienced controlling behaviours from a partner.  No man has the right to control and abuse his partner; healthy relationships are based on equality and respect.

“Young people must be given a clear message – domestic violence is against the law.   Everyone has the right to live free from intimidation and coercion.  Making young people aware of the techniques of control can help protect the next generation and create a world free from violence and abuse.”

The research findings show that conversation and communication about non-physical coercion and control is essential in helping young people learn about healthy relationships. Domestic violence is more than broken bones and bruises; being able to recognise abuse is the first step to accessing support. As a result, Avon will be making a commitment in the UK to raise awareness of non-physical violence in relationships amongst young people. This includes the intention to work with policy makers and media partners on how abuse is represented in society as well as developing social media campaigns and collaborating with partners to reach young people directly.

textsavon.jpgAndrea Slater, General Manager Avon UK, “What is clear from the research, which Avon has also conducted globally, is that coercion and control in relationships is a significant issue, and the fact that it has become normalised because of the proliferation of abuse in society is alarming. This must be addressed to help young people identify what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. Too many women – one in three globally – are experiencing some form of domestic violence. Avon is calling on our 6 million Representatives, our associates, our partners, our friends and networks to speak out to better empower women and girls and tackle domestic violence.”

The Avon-funded study is launched in conjunction with the announcement of the Avon Foundation for Women’s largest single donation globally, nearly £2million, for female victims of gender based violence. This marks the next chapter in Avon’s commitment to ending domestic violence and supporting survivors globally on International Women’s Day as part of the movement’s #BeBoldForChange campaign. In the UK, the Avon Foundation will be donating £250,000 to Refuge for front line services – the largest singular donation the charity has ever received.

For more information please contact press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. For out of hours and weekend press enquiries, please call 07970 894240.