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Research calls for action on adolescent relationship violence

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017 8:42am

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Violence and abuse in teenage relationships is a serious problem in New Zealand but does not receive the same level of attention as violence in adult relationships, an Issues Paper released today says.

“Adolescence is a key time to intervene and support young people to build healthy relationship skills,” author Dr Melanie Beres of the University of Otago says in the paper, released by the NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse.

The paper found:

  • 29 per cent of New Zealand secondary students reported being hit or harmed by another person in the previous year (Youth 2012 study)
  • 20 per cent of female and 9 per cent 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 per cent of women who stayed in women’s refuges were aged 15-19 years.

Dr Beres says 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.”

The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse is the national centre for family and whānau violence research and information. It is funded by Superu, managed by Auckland UniServices Ltd. and hosted by the University of Auckland.

Read the full paper.

For more information, contact:

Dr Melanie Beres
Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 8736
Email melanie.beres@otago.ac.nz

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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