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Research Case studies

Addressing Sexual Bullying Across Europe

Our work

The Addressing Sexual Bullying Across Europe (ASBAE) project, was a two-year EC Daphne-funded project, co-led by Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Tamara Turner-Moore, that took place from January 2013-2015.

The ASBAE project focused on sexual bullying (encompassing sexual harassment, homo- and bi-phobic bullying and transphobic bullying) amongst young people across five European countries (Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia and UK). Working in partnership with young people (aged 13-18) the project team conducted research with 253 young people and 37 professionals in the field of child education and protection about their understandings and experiences of sexual bullying and their ideas for tackling it.

Drawing upon the research findings, the project team worked with young people to develop a resource (the ACT Pack) which can be used to train young people to deliver (with the support of adult facilitators) peer-led workshops on sexual bullying. The ACT Pack contains both a set of training materials and a set of workshop activities. The training materials comprise a set of small group activities designed to prepare young people for the experience of delivering a workshop on sexual bullying to their peers. The workshop materials in the ACT Pack comprise of a range of interactive activities that can be delivered by the trained young people to their peers. The activities are designed to raise awareness of sexual bullying amongst young people and also to provide them with strategies for dealing with this.

Our impact

The intervention was piloted with 130 young people, with very positive feedback, and then launched at the project conference in 2015 to c100 stakeholders. The ACT pack intervention was made available to the general public in the five countries via the project website and in the first twelve months post-project, it received 430 downloads, with over 5,000 visitors to the website. All five partners have continued to implement modules from the intervention or to produce new initiatives based on the findings of the ASBAE research. In 2017/2018 partners provided training to 1,200 teachers and engaged more than 5,000 pupils in activities from the ACT pack.

The project’s products have also been disseminated beyond the countries involved in the project through organising and participating in multi-country seminars and round table discussions to present the ACT pack to professionals in other European countries (e.g. the ACT pack was presented to participants from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia during the Baltic States Round table Meeting on Preventive Youth Work with a Gender Perspective, which took place from 5th-6th February 2015 in Riga, Latvia). The project has enabled the partnership to influence policymakers and to contribute to new legislation around sexual bullying. For example, in the UK, the ASBAE project’s research findings were discussed in the House of Commons by Greg Mulholland MP and Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP. In Italy, the Ministry of Education is considering the possibility of publishing the ACT pack on its website as a tool for raising awareness of and preventing sexual bullying and Pepita (our Italian partner) is currently in discussion with the person responsible for education in the region of Lombardy to include specific articles related to the prevention of sexual bullying in the new law the region is writing to prevent bullying and cyberbullying. On 1st February 2016, a presentation was given about the ACT pack at the Italian Parliament in Rome and then for the Lombardy regional government (January, 2017). In May 2016, the ASBAE project team submitted written evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. This evidence is published on the Women and Equalities Committee’s website and cited in the inquiry report which was published in September 2016. In November 2018, Dr Turner-Moore and Dr Milnes presented and discussed (as invited panel members) the findings of the ASBAE project at the inaugural conference of the national Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation charity as part of National Anti Bullying Week.

This is a very serious issue, our schools should be places where children can feel safe and secure. The research from Leeds Beckett University shows a worryingly high number of young people suffer sexual bullying at school, so clearly there is a lot more we can and should be doing to support young people and properly tackle this issue.

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrats

Next steps

The Facilitating Communication on Sexual Topics in Education (F-COSTE) project was a nine month project (2016-2017) that built upon and further explored some of the findings of the ASBAE project. The F-COSTE team was made up of staff from five Schools of Leeds Beckett University (Kate Milnes, Tamara Turner-Moore, Erika Laredo, Jon Tan, David Carless, Kitrina Douglas, Andy Sandham).

The team worked collaboratively with practitioners and young people to understand how to improve talking, teaching and learning about sexual topics in school at Key Stage 4. They were particularly interested in improving relationships and sex education (RSE) on sexual harassment, bullying about sexuality, transphobic bullying, and pornography. The project included focus groups, interviews and workshops with school staff and young people aged 14-16 to gather their experiences of sexual bullying and pornography, their experiences of reporting and teaching on these topics, their ideas on how RSE could be improved, and to trial different creative methods that could be used in RSE. A number of films were produced as part of the project and the team are currently analysing the data from the research for further dissemination via journal articles and conference papers.

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.

Dr Tamara Turner-Moore, Project Co-Lead.

Research outputs

Plus Icon Conference presentations & invited talks 
  • Turner-Moore T. & Milnes K. Sexual bullying in young people. The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation Inaugural Conference, London, November 2018.
  • Milnes, K. and Turner-Moore, T. Why bullying definitions matter and why intent, repetition and directness might be ‘red herrings’. Paper presented at the BPS Psychology of Women and Equalities Section Annual Conference, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, July 2018.
  • Turner-Moore, T. and Milnes, K. Gendered explanations and victim-blaming in young people’s talk around sexual bullying and harassment. Paper presented at the Inaugural Gender Research Conference, Leeds Beckett University, March 2018.
  • Milnes, K. Thinking critically about sexual bullying. Invited keynote address at the BPS PsyPAG Annual Conference 2017, Northumbria University, July 2017.
  • Milnes, K. and Turner-Moore, T. ‘Boys will be boys’ so ‘man up’ and ‘get on the banter bus’: Gendered assumptions and the normalisation of sexual bullying and sexual harassment. Paper presented at the BPS Psychology of Women Section 30th Anniversary Conference, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, July 2017.
  • Turner-Moore, T. and Milnes, K. Sexual bullying among young people: Findings from a two-year European project. Invited talk at Contemporary Issues Affecting Young People: A Masterclass, Basis Yorkshire, Leeds, November 2016.
  • Turner-Moore, T. and Milnes, K. Gendered understandings and experiences of sexual bullying in young people. Paper presented at the Violence: Children, Family, Society Conference, University of Northampton, June 2015.
  • Milnes, K. and Turner-Moore, T. Problematising young people’s individualistic and interpersonal explanations for sexual bullying. Paper presented at the Violence: Children, Family, Society Conference, University of Northampton, June 2015.
Plus Icon Research reports

In the media

Press coverage

The project attracted very positive press coverage and wider attention with the research being covered in the Yorkshire Evening Post and on the BBC World Service's Health Check radio programme (including an interview with Dr Tamara Turner-Moore) and being discussed by local Liberal Democrat MP Gregg Mulholland and Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP in the House of Commons.

Centre for Psychological Research (PsyCen) Right Arrow

Our partners

  • Leap Confronting Conflict, UK.
  • Pepita Societá Cooperativa Sociale onlus, Italy.
  • Institute for Enhancement & Development of Quality of Life (PAPILOT), Slovenia.
  • Demetra Association, Bulgaria.
  • Resource Centre for Women (MARTA), Latvia.
Associate Partner
  • National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), UK.
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