Working with new generations on gender-based violence
Gender-based violence is a complex phenomenon with cultural, social and individual roots. It is a
‘global’ phenomenon found all over the world that affects all age groups. The common element is that it is mainly children, girls and women who are its victims. It is estimated that in Europe 2.5 million women
(UNICEF data, 2020) have experienced sexual violence before the age of 15. For 30% of women on the entire planet, their first sexual experience was forced. In Italy, 1 in 3 women between the ages of 16 and 70 has been a victim of violence in her lifetime, whether physical or sexual, psychological, or economic (ISTAT data, 2016).
Gender-based violence manifests in multiple ways, as much for minors as for adult and elderly women, about whom little is said. Physical and sexual violence is mainly acted out within the family or in a couple’s relationship and manifests through threats, beatings and sexual abuse. In many countries, girls and young women are victims of forced and reparative marriages, forced into sexual slavery and prostitution. Other forms of violence stem from traditional cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation.
In Italy, cases of abuse and violence against girls and young women have increased by 18% in the last 10 years (Terres des Hommes, 2019) as has the prevalence of underage rapists and gang rapes, also due to the almost complete absence of sexual education. Suffice it to say that 68% of boys between 12 and 19 have already watched a pornographic film, a factor that contributes to maintaining a questionable rape culture. Finally, let’s not forget other forms of violence, such as stalking and cyberstalking, or violence that often escapes monitoring, such as psychological and economic violence.
Gender violence and the younger generations: what’s happening in our country?
In Italy, among very young people, most bullying episodes are based on gender and among the younger generations, worrying stereotypes persist. Nineteen per cent of young people believe that if a man is cheated on, it is normal for him to become violent. In a 2019 research project, 10% of the girls surveyed say they have been harassed, 38% have been seriously insulted by their partner in front of others, 79% limit their behaviour out of
fear of their partners’ reactions who, in 68% of cases, claim to control their communications and phones. One girl out of 10 is afraid of the boy she is dating but one out of 3 declares herself ready to forgive him if there should be physical violence. In 75% of cases girls decide not to talk about this with anyone.
How to intervene? Fondazione Libellula’s Next Generation programme If gender violence is based on cultural factors, on particular stereotyped representations of male and female, it is on this level that we must intervene, intensifying prevention activities at all levels.
The Next Generation programme was created with this aim in mind: it consists of a series of meetings dedicated to adults – the employees of the network’s member companies – and their sons and daughters, depending on the age group. The meetings offer space for discussion to promote awareness of gender issues in the educational process and encourage the development in younger generations of behaviours that are open to diversity and free from stereotypes.
In the work with parents, the focus is on the way in which stereotypes can unconsciously influence relationships, expectations and attributions, conditioning the free development of others’ identities.
For adolescents, the activities propose, from a gender perspective, the typical topics appropriate to their development: the body, affectivity and relationships, identity, cyber-bullying, the potential and risks of the digital world. The sessions, which are interactive and concrete, offer tools and stimuli to recognise potentially harmful situations and prevent or deal with them.
What emerges from these experiences?
Several companies in the network have activated the Next Generation programme and one thing has emerged clearly: the need to talk about these issues in order to fill important gaps in awareness. Adults and young people often do not have a map of the phenomenon of violence, just as they lack references for what makes relationships between the sexes fully positive and respectful.
Finally, we believe it is fundamental to bring people to understand that the phenomenon of violence is not ‘nothing to do with me,’ but has its roots in a cultural background that inevitably influences all of us, and that – as such – each of us, in our own roles, areas, developmental paths and age, can contribute to changing, even by taking small steps.