New research shows how to counter violence against women and girls
New research shows that simple education programmes aimed at teenage boys can cut sexual violence by as much as 17%. The programmes show that study participants are less likely to commit assaults themselves and more likely to intervene if they witness an assault.
The Youth Endowment Fund – an independent charity – has analysed research from around the world on the impact of two simple programmes for tackling sexual violence.
One uses relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons in schools to prevent violence in intimate and partner relationships. The other – known as a ‘bystander intervention’ – teaches children and young people how to identify the early warning signs of sexual assault and arms them with the knowledge to take safe and appropriate actions to intervene.
The charity’s analysis showed that both type of programmes can be effective at reducing sexual violence.
On average, dating and relationship violence programmes reduced violence by 17%. This includes emotional, physical and sexual violence and violence that takes place online. These specialist RSE lessons help young people to explore attitudes associated with dating violence and teaches them how to spot the early signs of unhealthy relationships.
The Youth Endowment Fund’s analysis of international research showed that bystander intervention training can also be effective. The charity estimates that it could reduce participants’ involvement in sexual assault by 14%.
Bystander intervention programmes are typically delivered in secondary schools, further education and universities. They explore issues such as consent to sexual intimacy, assumptions and attitudes about perpetrators, and myths around the role of victim behaviour in sexual violence.
While the research suggests that bystander intervention programmes have real promise in helping young people to step in when they encounter situations of potential sexual assault, it’s a new and evolving area of practice here in the UK. Studies suggest that participants are less likely to commit sexual assaults themselves and are more confident about intervening. But the research hasn’t yet examined whether these interventions lead to fewer instances of sexual violence by other people.
The need for programmes and interventions that protect girls from violence was highlighted in the YEF’s survey of 2,025 teenage children. It found that girls were nearly five times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault compared to boys.
Jon Yates, Executive Director at the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Misogynistic influencers are trying to teach many of our boys and young men a poisonous view of women and girls. We now have the tools to fight back. Through better sex and education lessons and bystander training, we could cut sexual violence in this country.”
The ‘Bystander interventions to prevent sexual assault’ publication is the latest approach to be added to the YEF Toolkit. The free online resource summarises the best available research about what works to prevent violence. Visit at: www.youthendowmentfund.org.uk/toolkit .