Can young people be made sexually resilient?

The WE CAN Young campaign, aimed at increasing sexual resilience of young people in 15 Dutch municipalities, reached around 90,000 young people. 40 percent of the young people who became active change makers, find that their views and/or behaviour changed through the campaign. This is the conclusion of an independent Movisie research team after studying the campaign’s results and effective mechanisms.

In the national TV show Nieuwsuur (News Hour), the Dutch Minister  for Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, mentioned WE CAN Young as a good intervention for all municipalities to help fight gender inequality and sexual harassment.

New knowledge and different behaviour

WE CAN Young aims to increase knowledge and consciousness around sexually unacceptable behaviour, sexual resilience, gender inequality and gender violence. The final aim is that young people ultimately are able to demonstrate resilient behaviour. Self-reporting shows that around 40 percent of change makers (young people who actively contribute to the campaign) find that their ideas and/or behaviour changed as a result of WE CAN Young. The majority of change makers and young people indicate in interviews that they have received new knowledge on issues such as sexually unacceptable behaviour, and setting and respecting boundaries. Over one third of change makers and half of young people observe changes in their attitude or opinion. Slightly less than half of the young people and one third of change makers indicate that changes have taken place in the field of social impact: they now discuss issue such as sexually unacceptable behaviour, and setting and respecting boundaries.

Wide reach

Over the research period – May 2012 until the end of 2014 – the campaign has reached a large number of young people. The study shows that more than 1,800 young people were instructed to be active as change makers for WE CAN Young. And more than 11,000 young people were reached face to face with the activities they undertook. An additional 90,000 young people were reached through various social media.

Productive mechanisms

The researchers conclude that the system of WE CAN Young, with information provision connected to activities, is a formula for success. On condition that activities are intensive and interactive, with good information content and good guidance. Change makers and young people who have been actively involved in WCY over a longer period, see more effects personally in the field of knowledge, attitude and personal effectiveness. Short-term once-only activities are relatively frequent and popular. The researchers find that these activities may be useful to call attention to the theme, but that their effect on knowledge, attitude and personal effectiveness should not be overestimated. They also point out that it is important that the education matches the knowledge level of young people and is tuned to their experience and daily reality.

The research recommendations will be used in the continuation of the campaign in 2016 and the development of instruction tools. The campaign and the research are financed by the Ministry of Education under the heading Violence in dependent relationships.

More information

The English language summary of the study can be found here. For more information about the campaign WE CAN Young, contact Charlot Pierik.