The project “I can choose to say no - Empowering youth, especially girls, to stand up against cyber sexual and gender-based violence in intimate partner relationships” was implemented in 2020 by EWL members and partners in four countries, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Spain, with the goal of gathering data on cyber violence against youth, raising awareness on this wide-spread problem and exploring best ways to address it.
Within the project, partners in the aforementioned countries conducted two separate research studies: “Awareness and attitudes of secondary school students towards youth intimate partner violence“ and “What do teachers know about (cyber) gender-based violence in schools?“. Based on their findings, they developed several activities aimed at finding ways to end cyber violence among the youth. The project was supported by the European Union Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program (2014-2020).
One of the most present forms of cyber violence against young women (14-19) are sexualised comments online – experience that is shared among 57% of young women from Serbia, 72% from Croatia, 64% from Hungary and 63% from Spain.
Based on the data collected within the research, organisations implementing the project, the Autonomous Women’s Centre (Serbia), CESI - Center for Education, Counselling and Research (Croatia), NANE - Nők a Nőkért Együtt az Erőszak Ellen (Hungary) and Fundacion Privada Indera (Catalonia, Spain), prepared peer educations for youth, publications on the issue of cyber violence in youth partner relationships and an informative and educative publication “Teacher’s Guidebook on cyber sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response”.
More than 910 girls and 700 boys from 33 secondary schools in 55 cities from Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Spain participated in peer educations on cyber violence that were implemented by 70 young women and men who were previously trained to share their knowledge with their peers.
Project partners also developed important publication – magazine True2You, as well as two different interactive webpages – True2You and Nopedia with educational texts, games and videos for youth on cyber violence and youth partner relationships, as well as resources for peer educations on cyber violence prevention.
The importance of these activities is even greater having in mind the fact that “millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic” (UNICEF, 2020). Strong prevention and awareness-raising activities continue to be necessary in order to ensure the wellbeing and safety of children and youth in digital spaces, as it was visible also from some of the comments youth wrote in their anonymous evaluation forms:
“I learned to respect myself, I gathered new experience, learned the difference between a healthy and toxic relationship” – participant from Serbia
“The trainers who talked and asked were very nice, I think it is very important for every young person to know about these topics” – participant from Hungary
Work with teachers
“It was serious and disturbing for her/him” – this is the opinion of 61% of female teachers from Serbia, 31% from Croatia, 48% from Hungary and 87% from Spain, when asked about the effects of cyber gender-based violence on their students. Teachers from all countries reported that cyber SGBV had stronger negative effect on girls, while boys often perceived these situations as funny, they said.
The “Teacher’s Guidebook on cyber sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response” consists of four parts – (1) Sexual and gender-based violence in intimate relationships, (2) Education and prevention activities in the school context, (3) Encouraging disclosures and responding to sexual and gender- based violence in schools and (4) Good practices of cyber sexual and gender-based violence prevention in the school setting and can be used widely as an important tool for teachers to get to know the problem more, and to learn how they should react.
Based on the research findings, teachers need additional support to effectively address the problem of violence in youth partner relationships, specifically more knowledge, skills, professional training, useful educative materials, as well as contact points/services where they can refer students who are experiencing cyber gender based violence.
This is why, within the project, more than 480 teachers from 78 secondary schools and 55 cities/towns from all four countries participated in presentations and discussions on the Guidebook. Also, over 90 participants from across the Europe participated in the international online conference “Strategies to address cyber sexual and gender-based violence in schools”. Additionally, we have provided them with a webpagewith many useful materials and information.