Abuse in teen relationships a problem in NZ - study

  • 31/05/2017

Violence and abuse in teenage relationships is a serious problem in New Zealand and needs to get more attention, an Otago University paper says.

The paper found that 29 percent of secondary school students reported being hit or harmed over the previous year.

Twenty percent of female students and 9 percent of males said they had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour, with most incidents perpetrated by a friend.

As well, among those staying in women's refuges, 21 percent were aged 15 to 19.

The paper says the issue of adolescent relationship violence doesn't attract the attention that violence in adult relationships gets.

Author Dr Melanie Beres says prevention is key to addressing the problem, including changing underlying gender norms that shape and enable abuse.

She cites the example of boys being taught to be tough, strong and in control.

"They are taught that they should want sex and it's their job to initiate and 'get' it," she said.

"We need to provide alternative norms about both masculinity and femininity that value non-aggression and respect in boys while allowing for vulnerability."

Dr Beres, from Otago's Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work, said prevention and intervention needed to target all levels of society.

She said efforts should draw on international evidence of what was successful, but also work closely with local communities.

The paper was released by NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse, the national centre for family violence research and information.