Kaupapa Māori approaches could help address adolescent relationship abuse

An issues paper released today by New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse says that adolescent relationship abuse needs further attention and resource in New Zealand.

It says adolescent abuse also receives less attention than violence in adult relationships.

The issues paper called "Preventing adolescent relationship abuse and promoting healthy relationships" also found that:

-  adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have the highest rates of intimate partner violence

-  15% of young people aged 12 to 18 reported having experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the past year

-  the majority of incidents reported were perpetrated by a boyfriend, girlfriend or friend

-  21% of women who stayed in women’s refuges were aged 15 to 19

Acting Deputy Chief Executive at Superu, Vasantha Krishnan says the key to making long-term change is prevention and early intervention.

"Adolescence is a time when young people should be learning about healthy relationships, not living with violence from people who are supposed to care about them.  It’s shocking and shameful that we, as a society, are still dealing with issues like this.

"There is an increasing body of international evidence about what works to shift attitudes and behaviours towards adolescent relationship abuse.  Building on this evidence will avoid the mistakes made overseas, and maximise the chances of success for New Zealand initiatives," says Krishnan.

The issues paper found there's also a need to continue to grow the local evidence base about what works, particularly in relation to kaupapa Māori approaches to addressing adolescent relationship abuse.

Krishnan says, "When coupled with knowledge about local communities, and their attitudes and norms about relationships, effective interventions can be designed and implemented."

Key findings:

-  Violence and abuse in adolescent relationships are serious problems in New Zealand and internationally.  These issues receive less attention than violence in adult relationships.  Adolescence is a key time to intervene and to support young people to build healthy relationship skills.

-  Psychological and emotional abuse are the most common forms of violence, yet they are sometimes left out of intervention and prevention programmes.  More focus on issues of power and control, including emotional and psychological abuse, are warranted.

-  Prevention programmes targeted towards this group should consider how existing gender norms can be challenged as a means of driving changes in behaviour.

-  International evidence about successful and unsuccessful programmes is available and should be used to guide development and implementation of prevention and intervention strategies.  Indigenous programmes also need to be developed that are grounded in Te Ao Māori.

-  Intervention and prevention programmes must be developed in collaboration with members of communities within which the programmes are implemented, including ethnic minority and LGBTIQ communities.  Successful programmes engage with community members and understand their needs and perspectives.

-  Well-trained and skilled facilitators are just as important as good programme content.  Strong and knowledgeable facilitators are needed to be able to work from an evidence-base, and still tailor their activities to the different groups they work with. Workforce capacity-building is needed to grow and support more people to develop these skills.

-  School-based curricula are important, but it is also important to think more broadly about developing community-based programmes.

NB: The Clearinghouse is the national centre for research and information on family and whānau violence in New Zealand, funded by Superu.