Zero Tolerance and YWCA Scotland recently collaborated in an exciting new project, to pilot six days of training for youth workers across Scotland on preventing teen abuse and exploitation. The training days took place in Galashiels, Livingston, Ayr, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy and Dundee, and involved 74 people from a wide range of agencies, statutory services and voluntary projects.
The day-long course was split into four sections: 'Under Pressure to be Sexy', which examined the pressures of growing up in a pornified culture; 'Under Pressure in Love', which looked at the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships and the ways in which abuse manifests itself in young relationships; 'Under Pressure to Cross the Line', which examined the risks to young people of becoming involved in sexual exploitation; and 'Under Pressure to Make Change', which identified ways of preventing the abuses discussed throughout the day and taking the learning into communities.
A full evaluation of the six initial days is still underway but initial findings make for fascinating reading, both in terms of the scale of the problem of teen abuse in Scotland, and in terms of the impact this one-day course appears to have had.
It is clear from the data gathered from attendees that there is a significant problem around the abuse and exploitation of teenagers in Scotland. We asked them about what they had seen in their youth work practice and the responses were quite shocking. For example:
* Nearly 6 out of 10 (56.4%) had experienced young people exchanging images or texts where the content involved harmful gender stereotyping or could be seen as sexually demeaning or abusive
* Nearly 9 out of 10 (87.2%) had experienced young people making comments that were hurtful to others because of their gender, sexuality or sexual behaviour
* Nearly two thirds (66.7%) had experienced young people engaging in behaviour that gives cause for concern that they might be involved in an abusive or controlling relationship.
(Health warning: we are still checking the evaluation data and inputting some from the final day of training so the figures above and below are not final - the final data will be published in a report later this year).
Fortunately, the course appears to have had a significant impact on youth workers' ability to intervene on these issues. For example, we asked before the course about attendees' understanding of the signs and effects of young people being sexually exploited by others, and 29.5% said it was 'fairly low', with only 12.8% saying it was very or fairly high. After the course, no attendees said it was fairly low and 91.1% said it was very or fairly high.
Likewise, we measured attendees' confidence in tackling signs of relationship abuse or exploitation amongst the young people they work with and before the course, 30.8% said it was very or fairly high - but after the course 90.9% had very or fairly high levels of confidence.
So it appears even on a quick initial analysis of the differences between the baseline data and the end of course data that the course significantly improved attendees' knowledge, skills and confidence in preventing teen abuse and exploitation. A fuller analysis will be completed once the final post-course survey results have been gathered in a few weeks' time. We are keen to have the best possible evaluation data for this course and so we are doing follow up monitoring 8-10 weeks after the course to find out the impact on the attendees' practice - how they applied the learning and skills and what worked well. We will then be able to share this learning more widely.
It now remains for Zero Tolerance and YWCA Scotland to decide how best to use these findings to continue to make the case for greater investment in prevention-focused youth and community work, which we believe is much needed. We hope to have a launch event at which we can publicise the full extent of this project's findings sometime in the autumn - watch this space. In the meantime we will be seeking funding to roll-out this training across Scotland, so if you would like us to visit your area to deliver an 'Under Pressure' day, please get in touch with Jenny Kemp (Jenny.Kemp@zerotolerance.org.uk) and we will keep you informed of progress.