Sexual violence in young people’s close relationships – exposed, perpetrator and institutional frames

The boundaries between sexual violence and other boundary-crossings in young people’s close relationships are often unclear. How are these boundaries experienced, understood and handled? This study will examine the consequences of this lack of clarity for both youths and the institutions that are supposed to see, prevent and handle the violence.

2020 This project has been completed 2023

Project Manager

Project Members

This study has two themes: Young people’s understanding of sexual violence and institutional understanding and handling of sexual violence.  

The first theme consists of young people’s stories about and understandings of sexual violence in young people’s close relationships. We want to include both young victims, young perpetrators and young people without their own experiences of violence.

The context of the study is the lived experience of Norwegian youth, both online and offline. Like the non-digital world, the digital arena is a place where young people can be exposed to violence, aggression and abuse. The role digital media plays in sexual violence in young people’s lives will be a central theme in this project.

The meaning of gender in sexual violence

One of the aims of the study is to examine how gendered power-relations affect understandings and handling of sexual violence in young people’s relationships. Sexual violence is a gendered phenomenon. Prevalence studies show that young women are most vulnerable.

The struggle for definition power is played out in interaction with norms for masculinity and femininity. There are institutional and cultural norms that color the understanding of what «making a move» is, what’s crossing the line, and how a sexual offense is understood in a close relationship. How and why something feels like and is perceived by others as sexual violence depends on whether it is the perpetrator or the victim who is allowed to define the situation.

Handling in schools and in the judiciary system

The second theme has as an overarching goal to explore the institutional handling of sexual violence in young people’s close relationships. Institutions are understood here as places where young people meet society’s norms and requirements.

As part of the preparatory work for the empirical studies, we will review relevant case- and management documents, such as action plans, white papers, draft legislation and legislation. We will examine how sexual violence in young people’s close relationships is understood and constructed as an analytical category in these documents. Documents that deal with the schools’ response and duty to act will therefore be included. The two sub-studies firstly deal with the school’s handling and understanding of sexual violence. The second deals with the legal response, with particular emphasis on juvenile punishment.

Collectively, the studies will shed light on and provide insight into both the understandings of  individuals affected by violence, and the institutional understandings and handling of sexual violence between young people. By examining the discrepancy between young people’s understanding and institutional understandings our findings could help to make it easier to build trust between young people and social institutions. Thus, our study will contribute to more effective prevention.

The project group will produce a total of four peer-reviewed articles in addition to a Norwegian report. 
  • Individual interviews with young perpetrators and young victims of sexual YIPV
  • Focusgroup interviews with young people in secondary schools
  • Interviews with school staff
  • Interviews with county governors 
  • Interviews with staff at the Norwegian Mediation Service 
  • Document study of court decisions and planning documents from the Norwegian Mediation Service