Two girlfriends

Keep Me Safe

Almost 90% of people with a learning disability experience sexual abuse at some point in their life. The perpetrators are often relatives or other people in their immediate environment. People with a learning disability are vulnerable and their sexual health and rights are all too often still ignored or simply overlooked. IPPF recognised the urgent need to tackle this problem in Europe, and was keen to assist this vulnerable group. In addition, it wished to offer their environment, including parents, institutions and schools, the tools with which to support these young Europeans.

Safety is not a matter of seeking to protect your child from everything; safety is basically created by offering scope and encouraging independence.

A parent
Cyprus

Logo Keep Me SafeIPPF took the initiative to launch ‘Keep Me Safe’, a European project designed to empower young Europeans with a learning disability to protect themselves against sexual abuse. Moreover, they have both the right – as does everyone else – to engage in intimate relationships without placing themselves at risk, and the right to education and care. 

Set-up

Twelve European IPPF member organisations were involved in ‘Keep Me Safe’, including Rutgers. The twelve were subdivided into the following three groups, with a view to promoting the exchange of knowledge and expertise:

  • The expert countries: Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands.
  • The learning countries: Denmark, Macedonia and Latvia.
  • The entry-level countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Spain.

Rutgers’s role

As one of the experts, we were paired with Cyprus, a nation whose population is not inclined to openly discuss sexuality. One of our colleagues held a workshop for professionals and representatives of the Cypriot Ministry of Education, in order to explain what this target group is offered in the way of assistance in the Netherlands. An in-depth training session was also organised for professionals in the care and education sectors, teaching them how to set up and implement their own programmes. Furthermore, best practices derived from our own programmes were incorporated in the project’s ultimate toolkit. 

Manuals & training

Three tools were developed, which are based on the expert countries’ experiences and input:

  1. A road map on holding training sessions for young people with a learning disability, in order to educate and render them more resilient.
  2. A manual on the sensitisation training of parents and carers.
  3. A best practices manual on setting up and implementing a programme.

Translations

Two of the training manuals have been translated into five European languages, while the best practices manual is available in no fewer than nine languages. All the resources have been made available to other organisations which wish to set up their own prevention programme for this group of young people. 
Exchange visits between all the participating organisations were also held, while the expert countries coached other countries remotely throughout the term of the project.

Thanks to the simple language used, the Keep Me Safe project’s visual resources are also highly suitable for use with other vulnerable groups, such as the latest wave of refugees from the Middle East. 

Radosveta Stamenkova
Executive Director of the Bulgarian Family Planning Association

Closing conference

Among the most uplifting statements made during the closing conference, which was held in Madrid towards the close of 2014, was the announcement that the Cypriot Ministry of Education is to develop its own policy on the sexual resilience of young people with a learning disability. The conference also 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. 

Funding

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

Logo EC Daphne III Programme

 

About Rutgers

Twitter

Follow us on Twitter
Logo postcode loterij

Annually Rutgers receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and its participants