Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

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Girls – Is This Abuse or a Healthy Relationship?

I came across an interesting report from Girl Guiding after they’d looked into attitudes among girls to relationships, asking questions about what they believe acceptable behaviour by a partner in a relationship. The survey on which the report is based is the 2012 Girls’ Attitudes Survey.

According to the report, “… from a young age too many girls regularly tolerate behaviour rooted in jealousy and lack of trust, and have a tendency to reframe it as genuine care and concern for their welfare.”

Main (and sad) findings were that:

  • Two-fifths of girls believe it is acceptable for a partner to make you tell them where you are all the time.
  • One in ten say it is appropriate for a partner to tell you who you can and can’t spend time with
  • A fifth say it is acceptable for a partner to shout at you and call you names (21%) or send photos or videos of you to friends without your permission (17%)
  • One in five said it is okay for a partner to tell you what you can and cannot wear. 

And the report says, “It would seem that these examples of controlling behaviour – all covered by the government’s new definition of domestic abuse – are an accepted part of relationships for too many girls.” The other worrying thing that stuck out for me is that most girls said they wouldn’t tell parents or other adults/authority figures unless the behaviour was violent. So, too much is tolerated.

Do read the report, as it all makes interesting and important reading, for parents and teachers of girls – and boys. Perhaps even more for the latter.

I discuss the issue of respect and abuse in The Teenage Guide to Stress. Even for young people not in relationships, the incidences of sexual bullying and cruel disrespect are too important to ignore.

Teach our boys and girls to be fair and good to each other and not to tolerate bullying, because that’s what it is, the exertion of power by one person over another.

Spread the word about the government’s This is Abuse campaign. Until people of every age know what it is, it won’t get better.



6 Responses

  1. I’m not sure what to think, Nicola. From an adult’s perspective, I find this horrifying. I’ve been trying to think back to when I was about 14; so many things were acceptable to us then. I had school friends going out with 21 year olds and none of us batted an eyelid (this was 1994). Our headmistress would go ballistic and try to stop older men from coming to the school gates. I can see her point of view now, but back then, we all thought she needed to mind her own business. Hopefully, as these kids grow older, they will realise what is acceptable and what isn’t, but I’m not too optimistic. I’m surrounded by older women who think such behaviour is acceptable, so maybe a lot don’t grow out of it after all…

  2. I have been thinking about this. I think there are times when another person needs to know where you are or are going and (approximately) what time you will be back. It’s a safety and peace of mind issue.
    I live with my father as his “carer”. He is 90 and he worries when I am out and worries that I will worry when he is out. Because of that I tell him where I am going and about what time I will be back – and he tells me. It is not a control issue though because neither of us would say to the other “you can’t do that” or even “I don’t want you to do that”.
    I do think that, if you live in a close relationship with someone else, then sharing information about your whereabouts at certain times is courteous. It doesn’t take much to say “I’m just going down to the hardware place” so that the other person knows why you have left the house. What would be controlling would (a) to say “where are you going?” or (b) “you can’t go” or (c) to phone someone while they were out to check that they were where they said they would be. My brother also does the same thing to his partner – and she to him – but they also lead independent lives during the working day.
    I would be interested to know what you think.

    1. Cat, the report is clear that this isn’t what the questions were about. Note; “make you tell them where you are all the time”. As in “make you”. This is not about common sense mutual care for safety, which no decent person would argue with. The report was about control and inequality of choice.

  3. Thanks, I was thinking that – but also thinking that some people confuse the two “he tells me what to do because he loves me” and “he wants to know I am safe all the time” and they don’t realise it has crossed the line and become control. It was a very interesting article.

  4. By which I mean “tell” is “makes me tell” and “wants” is “demands” but these things are not recognised as such.

Do comment but please remember that this site is for all ages.


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