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22 February 2016
Gender-related violence among young couples is a widespread problem in the Nordic countries. A Nordic expert conference will be held in April to gather the best examples of how it can be stopped. ‘It’s important to start working with people at a young age,’ says Are Saastad from Reform – Resource Centre for Men in Norway.
In Norway, about 50 per cent of all rape victims are younger than 18. The same is true for the perpetrators. Sexual violence among young people, often between partners, is common. Yet the problem is not given much attention, and there is not much knowledge about it. In response to this, the Norwegian organisation Reform – Resource Centre for Men has launched a project together with organisations within the MenEngage movement in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The purpose of the initiative is to gather experiences and best practise from the different Nordic countries.
‘We assume that the situation looks about the same in all Nordic countries, although right now nobody really knows. The project is a way to explore this issue and identify what research and knowledge can be found in the Nordic countries,’ says Saastad.
On 15 April, the organisations will arrange the first Nordic expert conference on the topic.
What can be done to stop the gender-related violence among young people?
‘Reform has a project in place called Stopp kjærestevolden (stop partner violence). It targets 14–15 year olds and revolves around issues related to gender norms and ideals. We tried to collaborate with the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, but it didn’t go very well. Now we have instead teamed up with the Church of Norway. We talk to the kids during their confirmation programme. It has worked out great. It’s our experience that it’s important to approach young people early, before they start drinking alcohol and getting involved romantically.’
Can you describe the links between young men’s violence, masculinity norms and gender roles?
A common denominator is that many teenagers don’t know what a good relationship with the opposite sex looks like. In school, they only get to hear about the purely sexual aspects. Nobody helps them define a healthy relationship. Our observations also show that there is very little focus on the culture of violence often seen among boys. There’s a strong heteronormative view of what boys are supposed to be like, and sex, violence and action are important elements. It’s hard to be a boy and break away from these macho norms.’
What are the benefits of Nordic cooperation around these issues?
‘The problem looks very much the same in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Yet we have dealt with it in different ways. We want to gather experts and good examples of how we can work with these issues. The goal of the conference is to develop joint recommendations and guidelines, with a particular focus on how the violence among young couples affects both the victim and the perpetrator. The intention is to make this material useful to organisations and government agencies across the Nordic region.’