Several troubling statistics about the lives of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland have recently been highlighted by the Northern Ireland Executive Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy. The report considered the lived-in experiences and beliefs of a group of 16-year-olds from a variety of backgrounds across the country.
Among the more worrying statistics, the report revealed that a large number of young people in Northern Ireland experience or witness violence within their own intimate relationships. According to the survey, 40% had experienced “at least one form of intimate partner violence”, though emotional abuse was the most common.
Other concerning findings showed that a significant amount of young people surveyed believed that “men are entitled to have sex with their partners” and that “women should be responsible for avoiding sexual assault”.
From this study, it is evident that several worrying attitudes towards relationships and gender exist within the young people of Northern Ireland. It is crucial to act with urgency in addressing issues such as domestic violence, forms of abuse, and consent at an earlier age, while also promoting healthy depictions of relationships and gender equality.
The VAWG Strategy suggests effective methods for combating these issues, such as improved education and awareness for young people, better support services for victims of abuse, and appropriate legal reform that will hold perpetrators of abuse accountable.
These issues affect us all. We must work together to empower young people with education, provide them with support, and instil them with confidence in understanding the difference between healthy and abusive relationships and ideologies.
Together, we can create a safer world for everyone.
The VAWG Strategy report should act as a starting point for tackling these issues in Northern Ireland. Its recommendations should be taken seriously by both policymakers and educators.