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Preventing adolescent relationship abuse: new NZFVC Issues Paper

Author Dr Melanie Beres of the University of Otago says "Adolescence is a key time to intervene and support young people to build healthy relationship skills."

The paper found:

  • 29% of New Zealand secondary students reported being hit or harmed by another person in the previous year (Youth 2012 study)
  • 20% of female and 9% of male secondary school students reported having experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the previous year. The majority of incidents were perpetrated by a boyfriend, girlfriend or friend.
  • 21% of women who stayed in women’s refuges in 2015/16 were aged 15-19 years.

Dr Beres said prevention is key to addressing this problem.

"A key part of prevention is transforming the underlying gender norms that shape and enable abuse. For example, boys are taught to be tough, strong and in control. They are taught that they should want sex and it’s their job to initiate and 'get' it."

"There have been numerous examples of this in the media in recent months. We need to provide alternative norms about both masculinity and femininity that value non-aggression and respect in boys while allowing for vulnerability."

"Efforts need to address all levels of society, from national policy and community norms to schools programmes and family awareness."

"Prevention and intervention efforts need to draw on international evidence of what works, but also work closely with local communities.

"Kaupapa Māori approaches to building healthy relationships and addressing adolescent relationship abuse also need to be developed.".

Author: Melanie Beres, PhD Publication date: 12 May 2017 Read the paper here