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Sexual bullying in young people across Europe is widespread, new research shows


New research, led by Leeds Beckett University, has revealed that sexual bullying in young people is widespread in countries across Europe, with 73% of young people aged 13 - 18 having experienced at least one form of sexual bullying behaviour on more than one occasion.

the Rose Bowl

The two-year project, entitled ‘Addressing Sexual Bullying Across Europe’ (ASBAE), co-led by Dr Tamara Turner-Moore and Dr Kate Milnes, with Professor Brendan Gough at Leeds Beckett, developed a peer-to-peer intervention programme to empower young people aged 13-18 to tackle and prevent sexual bullying. 

The project team defined sexual bullying as an umbrella term, encompassing sexual harassment, bullying due to a person’s sexual identity or expression, and transphobic bullying.

The research project brought together expertise from non-governmental partners across Europe, specialising in work with women, children and young people, and included focus group discussions with more than 250 young people and 35 professionals across five European countries, followed by 120 young people in these countries generating ideas for the peer-led empowerment programme.  

Speaking about the findings, Dr Turner-Moore commented: “The results of our research suggest that young people are keen to be given space to talk about issues relating to sexual bullying. This kind of bullying appears to be a pervasive feature of young people’s lives that many find upsetting, yet its problematic nature is often overlooked or downplayed by young people, precisely because it has become such a taken-for-granted part of their everyday experiences.”

The research has shown that sexual bullying is a widespread social phenomenon that is increasingly being mediated by smartphones and social media. This is common across all the countries involved: Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia and the UK. The young people involved highlighted that sexual bullying is widespread in their daily lives.

The second year of the project was focused on the development of a peer-led empowerment programme to heighten young people’s awareness of sexual bullying and to provide them with the necessary skills to protect themselves and others from these forms of bullying.

On Wednesday 28 January, a final conference is set to be held at the University’s Rose Bowl, where the full results of the research will be discussed and the peer-to-peer intervention launched.  Young people from the project will also provide interactive demonstrations of activities from the intervention.

At the conference, Jon Brown, Head of Strategy and Development at the NSPCC and Dr Neil Duncan, Reader in Education for Social Justice at the
University of Wolverhampton, will contribute their own work to the debate on sexual bullying.

The empowerment pack, or “ACT (Awareness Cooperation Tackling) Pack”, targeted at young people and the people working with them, will be available for free download from the project website www.asbae.eu from the beginning of February with the project’s research report also available for free download.

Dr Turner-Moore added: “The ACT pack aims to raise young people’s awareness of sexual bullying, encourage them to challenge the prejudiced attitudes that give rise to it and to provide them with strategies to tackle and prevent it.”

The conference is free but you must register online in advance at http://asbae.eventbrite.co.uk. Registration closes on Tuesday 20 January. 

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