Y-SAV envisions a Europe free from sexual violence

28th February 2014
Y-SAV envisions a Europe free from sexual violence

The Y-SAV project led by Rutgers WPF, the Dutch IPPF member, is an excellent example of how a strong centre of expertise on sexual and reproductive health and rights can promote change on all levels. From in-depth research to effective policy-making and on-ground activities Y-SAV’s work stands out when it comes to improving the lives of young Europeans who counter sexual violence. As you read this, research and country reports are translated into concrete actions by policy makers, and around Europe, young advocates speak out for gender equality and against sexual violence.

Are we failing to address the reality and the real needs of young people? This is the question that alarmed Rutgers WPF, as study after study provided similar results: sexual aggression and victimization is highly prevalent among young Europeans. In a number of EU countries, a third to half of reported sexual assault cases are of young people, primarily young women – meaning that young people's sexual health and sexual rights are strongly endangered.

These alarming findings led to the initiation of Y-SAV, a three-year project on Youth Sexual Aggression and Victimization co-funded by the European Union. Since its introduction, Y-SAV has been tackling youth sexual aggression and victimization on several fronts. This starts with making research comparable across countries and bringing scientists, policy makers and health and education experts together. Young advocates are taking the research findings to a concrete level, discussing them with policy makers and their peers and providing peer-to-peer education. The goal is to see a Europe where every level of action aims at the best possible response to sexual aggression experienced by youth.

Gosia’s story from Poland:

Young activists combat sexual aggression and victimization

“During the summer of 2013, Y-SAV supported two youth led activities: YouAct, which is a group of young European sexual rights advocates, and Ponton, our project in Poland. The name Ponton comes from our volunteer peer educator group, Ponton Group of Sex Educators. We wanted to encourage young people to speak out against Youth Sexual Aggression and Victimization (YSAV). We felt frustrated as in Poland, over 70% of teenagers have experienced some kind of victimization, but the government has not taken concrete measures to prevent this phenomenon.

The main goal of our project was to engage young people so that action would be taken by young people for young people.

We asked an all-girl hip hop group Rymy w Sercu to create a song about sexual violence to spread the message in a way that would get to young people – and they did an amazing job! You can see their video ‘Take a stand’ here. (Remember to turn on ‘captions’ for subtitles!)

Our school workshops inspired young people to come together to rally against sexual violence. They created slogans, photos and a website. It was great to see students being so active. Media and culture fuel negative gender stereotypes and influence the way sexuality and intimate relationships are seen. We need comprehensive sexuality education to fight those stereotypes and convey accurate information.

As one of the participants said,

“This was the first time someone talked with us about sexual violence.”

“I think that if in every school every student could participate in such workshops, more people like me would open up to discussions about sexuality - the issue is an essential part of every human being.”