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Contributing to identify causes of gender violence among teenagers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FREE_TEEN_DESIRE (Contributing to identify causes of gender violence among teenagers)

Reporting period: 2015-08-17 to 2016-08-16

Nowadays, the frequency of gender violence is extremely high; 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence (World Health Organization, 2016 ). In 2009, Miguel Carcaño, adolescent, confessed to have raped and killed his ex-girlfriend, Marta del Castillo. After entering prison, a platform was launched in support of the self-confessed murderer, through which his admirers declared their desire to meet and to start a relationship with him. We can find examples like this worldwide. After participating in 12 competitive research projects, Dr. Puigvert and her team concluded in 2008 (and published in the Journal Violence Against Women, 1st Quartile JCR) that some adolescents have been socialized into a type of relationships that link attraction and violence. The same year she was appointed as member of the Expert Group on Gender Violence at the European Women’s Lobby, platform where Dr. Puigvert continued deepening in these analyses. The FREE_Teen_Desire project was framed from this experience and scholarship as well as new research approaches, in order to take further steps. In 2014, Dr. Puigvert was Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Criminology (IoC) at Cambridge University for two months; stablishing an initial collaboration that became a first step for the elaboration and development of the FREE_Teen_Desire project. During the academic year 2015-2016, the scholar has been a Marie Curie Fellow at IoC. Currently this link is being maintained due to an extension as a Visiting Scholar for the year 2016-2017 at the CCGSJ -Centre for Community, Gender and Social Justice within the Institute of Criminology, at Cambridge University.

The project FREE_Teen_Desire has been carried out under three main aims: 1) exploring to which extent, dialogue situations (based on a language of desire) can question adolescent girls’ desires that link attractiveness to violent behaviours, 2) assessing whether this dialogic questioning of girls’ desire, if any, is true beyond cultures; thus breaking down cultural and racist stereotypes associated to VAW, and 3) developing the evidence-based approaches needed to increase effectiveness in the prevention of gender violence among adolescents. Counting on the expertise of Prof. Gelsthorpe, FREE_Teen_Desire became a framework for scholarly exchange to develop a quasi-experimental study with 493 adolescent girls and young women from four different countries, as well as a qualitative analysis of some of their stories. This approach contributed to open new lines of research and channels of collaboration with the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, as well as with colleges within the University such as the Pembroke and Wolfson Colleges.

The development of the project has also lead to the opening of political and social future collaborations, such as the County Council and the Youth Criminal Justice in Cambridge. In the same vein, networks of cooperation among secondary schools from different countries have been stablished.

The ground-breaking and original nature of the FREE_Teen_Desire project has laid on the fact of providing new scientific data on a field that has been barely explored. The outcomes are being capitalized in order to inform the definition of actions, programs and campaigns in the fight against VAW. FREE_Teen_Desire demonstrated through rigorous scientific inquiry that the association of desire and violence can be dismantled through dialogue. Indeed, socialization processes which not link attraction towards violence might be promoted in order to enjoy sexual-affective relationships free of violence; which means a scientific cornerstone on the issue.

This great impact described has been achieved because the findings obtained have a wide social utility for society. The FREE_Teen_Desire results show the necessity of reconsidering the scientific knowledge adopted in the design of interventions to prevent gender violence, particularly for the relevance to implement those procedures and policies that are based on the questioning of the language of desire. As it can be observed, the Dialogic Feminist Gatherings (the intervention executed in the quasi-experimental study), effectively questioned the desire of young women towards violent young men and thus contributing to support young women for responding to gender violence
1) Review of the Empirical Evidence and Literature Review

Existing empirical data addressing issues connected with FREE_Teen_Desire, such as attractiveness, masculinity and language of desire have been reviewed. Especially the data came from three competitive research projects which were conducted by two scholars at the University of Barcelona (Marta Soler & Esther Oliver) . Both gave me their consent for employing this source of information. Lately, a large state of the art on the attractiveness towards violence, adolescents’ desire and sexual violence was carried out. This analysis has evidenced some of the theoretical debates about gender violence and its connection with attractiveness towards violent behaviours. For instance, one of these debates refers to the successful results on terms of dating and attractiveness of those guys who have committed crimes (Ha et al., 2010; Burton et al., 1998). Other analyses pay attention on the sexual coercion that occurs in university campuses (Saldivar et al., 2008).

2) Comparative & Quasi-Experimental Study: A one-time intervention

For the quasi-experimental study, a new methodological instrument was designed directly connected with the project research objectives and previous findings identified both in the empirical data and the literature reviewed. This instrument, based on the Vignette Test, has been used to measure the extent to which dating desire is based either on the attractiveness or on the social status of a potential short-term partner. The use of the Vignette Test was very innovative because it permitted to measure changes in adolescent girls’ desire -in relation to presence or absence of violence- and as a product of engagement in dialogues grounded in the language of desire. Finally and prior to its implementation, the Vignette Test was validated by an Advisory group which involved a secondary school teacher; two adults connected with education areas and mass media; and three students aged between 12 and 18 years old. Additionally, the validation process was complemented piloting the instrument with young students. In Table 1 a brief description of all the fieldwork carried out is described.

Countries Schools-Universities Total Sample – Quasi experimental study Total Number-Interviews to teens

Spain 7 Schools/2 Universities 214 female teens / 215 female university students 31
Cyprus 1 15 female teens 8
Finland 1 34 female teens 4
UK 2 15 female teens 10

11 second schools 278 female teens +
2 Universities 215 female university students
493 53

3) Dissemination

FREE_Teen_Desire aimed to disseminate its results at a large and diverse audience. Indeed, some of its findings have already been published in scientific journals and more articles are expected to be published in the near future. Additionally, an expert seminar called Data, Youth and Violence, was celebrated in June 30th 2016 at the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University. Preliminary findings were presented there and renowned experts on the field of youth violence such as professors Manuel Eisner, David Farrington and Loraine Gelsthorpe were involved in the discussion. More than 60 people from different backgrounds (policymakers, scholars, activists, practitioners) attended the event. The main objective of this seminar was to open the floor for discussion, from different academic disciplines and approaches, contributing to scientific evidences already collected in the FREE_Teen_Desire. At the point when the project was presented it roused the major interest from the experts and a large discussion was established.
FREE_Teen_Desire is reaching huge impact at different levels. At the scientific and academic levels, it has opened new research collaborations with other universities and colleges in different countries: Pembroke and Wolfson Colleges in the UK, University of Cyprus in Cyprus, University of Helsinki in Finland and Loyola-University-Andalucía in Spain. In the latter case, it has been strengthened a strong research collaboration with the Department of Psychology, particularly in the research line of neuro-science. Furthermore, other new projects have been submitted to other European Calls (ERC and SSH H2020) strongly connected with FREE_Teen_Desire findings.

At political level, several public bodies have shown their interest for the FREE_Teen_Desire results, principally for designing evidence-based policies which prevent gender violence among adolescents.

Last but not least, the social impact achieved is being connected with the change of the attraction patterns in young women and girls. The Dialogic Feminist Gatherings have shown a real impact on dismantle the widely accepted attraction towards violent behaviours. This strong reaction also awaked a big interest from schools, for approaching these issues in their classes and school environments.