Woman at a radio station (Photo by Jeroen van Loon)

Keep Me Safe: European Partnership

The Cypriot Ministry of Education intends to develop policy on the issue of the sexual resilience of young people with a learning disability. Various parties in Cyprus are currently engaged in debate on the matter. This is one of the results of Keep Me Safe, a European exchange project in which Rutgers has been participating for the past two years. Its objective was to empower young Europeans with a learning disability to protect themselves against sexual abuse and violence. In addition, however, it was designed to assist their environment, including parents, institutions and schools, in offering these vulnerable young people support in this area.

European lobby

The project’s closing conference was hosted in Madrid towards the end of last year. It yielded proposals for a political lobby at European level for the sexual rights of this target group and for measures to vouch for their (sexual) safety.

Other results

The following results were also announced during the closing conference:

Drawing of female body with genitalia

  1. Professionals have been trained in all the participating nations, who in turn are now training the young people that they supervise.
  2. Adopting an approach which also involves the parents has encouraged them to also share their concerns about their child’s sexual development with other people. 
  3. Professional networks have been established in several countries, with a view to both inspiring and consulting one another.

Background

Keep Me Safe comprised thirteen European IPPF member organisations, including Rutgers. An expert group, a learning group and an entry-level group were set up. As one of the expert countries, the Netherlands was paired with Cyprus, a nation whose population is not inclined to openly discuss sexuality. Although the Netherlands served as a member of the expert group, we nevertheless learned a great deal from our international colleagues. This included creative ways of working.

Topical questions

Particularly those countries where policy pertaining to these young people is still very much in its infancy posed questions concerning a vast range of topics during the conference:

  • Should there be separate programmes for boys and girls or not?
  • What is more effective: group programmes or personal coaching?
  • How can parents address their natural desire to protect their child while avoiding the negative consequences of becoming overprotective?
  • How can one involve parents in general and fathers in particular in their child’s sexual education and resilience?
  • How might institutions develop a vision and policy, while also generating broader support?

These questions illustrate that much is also being done in these countries to assist young people with a learning disability in this regard. After all, many of these issues are also topical in the expert countries.

In short, the resilience of young people with a learning disability has been firmly placed on the political agenda throughout Europe thanks to this project.

Keep Me Safe was co-funded by the European Commission Daphne III Programme.

Logo EC Daphne III programme

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