Rutgers has been spearheading the Youth – Sexual Aggression and Victimisation (Y-SAV) research project to tackle this problem. Y-SAV promotes an integrated and collaborative approach to advocacy and research in the EU’s 27 countries. Sexual aggression can be prevented, its victims should have access to support, and its perpetrators should receive treatment.
There is anxiety among decision makers to address issues relating to youth and sexuality. However, discomfort in talking about youth and sexuality is not more important than young people’s wellbeing, safety, health, pleasure and our human rights.Statement Y-SAV Youth Forum 2013
The project has examined the situation in all 27 countries in Europe. The reports are available in the resource area. “The research is an essential part of the advocacy for a better legal and policy response to youth sexual aggression,” said Ine van Weesenbeeck of Rutgers: “The research reports in themselves are testimony to how society struggles with young people’s sexuality.”
The Y-SAV project also seeks to improve the impact of laws, policies and future research on youth sexual aggression and victimisation around Europe. For example, only three European countries have rape law based on non-consent. Young people are treated very differently above and below the statutory age of consent. And researchers need to use common definitions and adopt standardised methodologies. In March 2013 a forum of researchers, practitioners, stakeholders and policy makers developed a report containing statement reflects their voices and their opinions.
New research community
Research by Rutgers for Y-SAV showed the need for more collaboration and sharing of knowledge among European experts in this field. Rutgers has built a new EU network of experts, created an online knowledge base and shared a standard set of indicators for the measurement of sexual aggression and victimisation among young people, in collaboration with partners in Sweden (SUSE), Germany (UP), Latvia (PZ), Lithuania (MTVC), and Portugal (TEI).
The Y-SAV project identified a need for harmonization in research and proposed and pre-tested the Sexual Aggression and Victimization Scale (SAV-S) for the purpose, originally designed in Germany. The instrument measures self-reported sexual aggression and victimization in a specified time period. It integrates four dimensions: the coercive strategies used; the sexual acts involved; the relationship between victim and perpetrator; and the genders involved and their roles.
The Sexual Aggression and Victimization Scale (SAV-S) is offered for use by researchers across Europe who intend to collect data on the sexual aggression and victimization as well as on its risk and vulnerability factors. Depending on the question addressed in a research project and the level of detail intended, particular constellation of the dimensions covered by this instrument can be selected. Those dimensions provide a systematic framework in which future research on youth sexual aggression can be located.
The SAV-S has been pilot-tested for use in comparative research across different countries in 10 EU member states.and is currently available in nine languages (English, German, Dutch, Greek, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovakian, and Spanish). It is available on request from Prof. Barbara Krahé at the University of Potsdam, Germany.
The Y-SAV programme is now finished, it ran from 2012 until the end of 2014.