Brighton and Hove youngsters in first relationships are experiencing domestic violence

Teenagers as young as 14 are experiencing domestic violence in their first relationships, according to a local expert.

Domestic violence charity Rise’s chief executive Jo Gough told members of Brighton and Hove City Council how two thirds of 14 to 16-year-olds taking part in the survey had experienced abuse or coercive control.

A quarter were yelled at, a third were put down or constantly checked up on and 9 per cent had been hit, kicked, punched or slapped.

Jo Martindale, chief executive of the Hangleton and Knoll Project, which provides support and activities for young people, felt that there was a need to inform and support teenagers to end the cycle of domestic abuse.

She said: “There needs to be an increasing focus on healthy relationships for young people.

“Our young women should not accept abuse and our young men learn to control their anger.

“Although it’s not always gendered that way.”

Ms Gough told the council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee today (Monday 11 March), how Rise had seen a 56 per cent increase in the number of new clients from 617 to 964 in the past six months.

When asked for possible explanations for the increase, she said: “The good news is better reporting. The bad news is we don’t know.

“It may be there is more domestic abuse and more services.

“What we do know is the reporting process systems have got better. The police are responding better with more training.”

Rise also has 12 people a week coming to them who are at high risk of harm or death.

There have not been any deaths in Brighton and Hove in the past couple of years but Ms Gough said there were some near misses and difficult cases involving attempted strangulation.

A key focus for Rise is long-term support for victims of domestic violence who suffer with trauma.

She described people as going into emotional shock within their homes as domestic abuse was “constant and insidious”.

Ms Gough said: “Home is supposed to be a place of support and safety, a place to escape to.

“Instead home is the source of emotional shock and fear.”

Coercive control, which is emotional rather than physical violence, was described as domestic terrorism.

Brighton and Hove City Council is in the process of developing a domestic violence strategy.

It is currently at the stage where it is about to consult with various groups and organisations across the city.

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