A new study presented at the Children’s Prosperity Congress reveals alarming rates of sexual harassment and violence among Icelandic youth, with one in six tenth-grade girls stating that they had been raped by a peer and the majority of victims not reporting it, RÚV reports. Almost 60% of teenage girls report having encountered sexual harassment online.
Voices of the youth “extremely important”
Professionals, government officials, children, and relatives convened at the Harpa Music and Conference Hall yesterday for the Children’s Prosperity Congress (i.e. Farsældarþing).
Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children, told RÚV that parliament played an important role in implementing laws contributing to the prosperity of children. “It’s significant that experts involved in children’s issues from various sectors are convening here. We’re not just discussing the current state of affairs, but also identifying the key challenges, scrutinising data, and setting policies. This helps us decide, as a society, where to focus our efforts in the upcoming seasons,” Ásmundur Einar observed.
Ásmundur Einar emphasised the crucial role of children’s input in shaping the service. “Their voices are extremely important and should be included in every discussion and decision-making process.”
Important to articulate the concerns of the youth
Hanna Valdís Hólmarsdóttir, a 15-year-old participant, remarked that she was struck by the extent to which their voices, as young people, were heard. “It’s awesome.”
Sixteen-year-old Ernir Daði Arnberg Sigurðsson concurred, saying that it felt crucial to articulate the sentiments and concerns of the younger generation. “Society faces numerous pressing issues, and it’s important that professionals hear our perspective so they can effectively address them.”
Fifteen-year-old Emilía Karen Gunnthórsdóttir hoped that the congress would prove successful. “I have both hopes and confidence that this congress will yield successful results,” she stated.
Striking statistics on violence
During the congress, findings from the Icelandic youth study (i.e. Íslensku æskulýðsrannsóknarinnar), conducted among primary school students this past spring, were disclosed. Ragný Þóra Guðjohnsen, who managed the study, highlighted several positive outcomes from the children’s responses. “A significant majority of children feel content in their school environment and exhibit increased social awareness,” Ragný noted.
There are, however, pressing concerns, as well. For instance, between 30-44% of children report feeling sadness, and as many as 56% experience anxiety. “Here, we see a marked gender discrepancy, indicating that particular attention must be paid to girls,” Ragný added.
Shockingly, 11% of children have been exposed to domestic violence, and an alarming 58% of teenage girls have encountered sexual harassment online. “A disturbingly large segment of children have experienced sexual abuse or domestic violence,” Ragný Þóra observed. “We’re witnessing a rise in violence against children, with boys requiring particular attention.”
Other statistics are equally alarming: 15% of 10th-grade teenage girls have been raped by peers, and 17% have suffered sexual abuse from an adult. A majority of abuse victims have not disclosed their experiences to anyone.
Violence is rampant
“Violence is rampant today,” 15-year-old Hanna Valdís told RÚV yesterday. “It’s disheartening to see how normalised it has become for people my age to engage in physical fights and even suffer from stabbings or severe abuse.”
Emilía Karen emphasised the importance of accessible support for struggling teens. “Everyone needs someone to talk to when grappling with anxiety or depression. Greater societal support is imperative.”
Perpetrators encouraged to seek help
Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Guðbjörg S. Bergsdóttir of the Data Science and Information Department of the National Police Commissioner pointed out that violence can be reported via the website 112 or by contacting a trusted adult.
The office has recently launched an initiative targeting perpetrators, or individuals pursuing inappropriate contact with children. Help can be sought at the website taktuskrefid.is, which offers a self-assessment for those concerned about engaging in harmful online behaviour.