child abuse
22% of schoolgirls said they had been pressured into sex.Getty

More than 40% of schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into engaging in sexual activity, according to the findings of a study by the NSPCC.

The study was carried out by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire.

The children's charity surveyed more than 1,000 young women across England uncovering a frightening level of every day abuse in their relationships

The survey of schoolgirls in England, Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus found most of the schoolgirls said they were pressured into having sex, while some also reported being raped.

Meanwhile, 22% of schoolgirls reported suffering physical attacks, intimidation and intimidation from their boyfriends, including slapping, punching and strangling.

The study, the largest of its kind ever carried out in Europe, also found that a high proportion of teenage boys regularly view pornography and one in five hold negative attitudes towards women.

A fifth of boys thought it was OK to hit a girl if they had been unfaithful. England also had the most children sexting images of themselves to partners.

Just under 50% of girls admitted sending sexual photographs of themselves to boyfriends, with 27% only sending them because they felt pressured. Most said the pictures had then been shared with others. A third of boys admitted sending sexually explicit photos.

The NSPCC's Dr Christine Barter, who worked with Bristol and Central Lancashire Universities, said: "Across Europe violence and abuse, both offline and online, in young people's relationships constitutes a major problem.

"Yet in most countries it remains unrecognised leaving young people with little support or appropriate services."

The NSPCC has now called on the government to take decisive action to help children learn about healthy relationships.

Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at the NSPCC, said: "The levels of victimisation revealed by this research shows action is urgently needed by the government to make updated sex and relationship education a statutory right for every child and young person.

"There needs to be a greater focus in schools on topics such as sexual exploitation and violence against girls and young women, as part of a balanced curriculum.

"The high rates of sexual coercion discovered need to be addressed through education and awareness-raising that challenges attitudes and helps change behaviour.

"We need to nurture children to have positive relationships based on mutual respect."