Young people addressing sexual violence in Europe

In the summer of 2014 the ‘Our Voices’ team at the International Centre partnered with various projects across Europe to run a series of consultations with ‘Youth Advisors’ across Albania, Bulgaria and the UK. Forty-seven young people, aged 11 to 25, took part in these consultations. The sessions looked at how to prevent sexual violence; what stops young people talking about these experiences; and accessing relevant support. This post highlights some of the messages of the report.

The Youth Advisers identified a number of barriers and challenges that prevented young people from understanding sexual violence and accessing support. These included:

  • Lack of information in schools and society
  • Failure of safe opportunities to talk about sex
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Not being believed or supported
  • Fear and being scared
  • Not understanding the situation
  • Not knowing where to go for help
  • Not trusting professionals
  • Wanting to forget
  • Not understanding the systems
  • Lack of confidence in police systems and institutions

The Youth Advisors suggested various ways that young people themselves can be involved in preventing sexual violence. These included:

  • Getting involved in campaigns, events and distributing resources
  • Talking about sexual violence to other young people and being ‘ambassadors’
  • Working as a volunteer with services and supporting others

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The Youth Advisers felt that there were many reasons why young people should be involved in prevention efforts including that they know more about what’s happening, and talk the same language. Nevertheless they also concluded that it was important for organisations wanting to engage young people in sexual violence prevention efforts to make it meaningful, worthwhile, sensitive and fun.

You can read the full report on the International Centre website, where you will also find further information about the Our Voices project.

Illustration by Julianna Jagielska