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How might gender-based violence affect young people?

Gender-based violence can cause significant trauma and distress as well as having a range of potential physical, emotional mental health and social impacts. Every individual and their circumstances is unique, but there are a range of common impacts.

In the shorter term young people will be dealing with the immediate (or ongoing) impacts of their experiences – such as ongoing abuse or harassment from the perpetrator, feelings of shock, anger or fear as they try to make sense of what has happened, any physical and/or sexual health impacts, involvement in any police investigation or child protection measures, and potential loss of home due to domestic abuse. There may also be disruption to relationships – whether within peer groups, family or community – with the potential for the survivor to face blame or shame if they are seen to be in some way responsible for being abused, or for exposing the family/community by reporting it. These circumstances are likely to have substantial impact on the young person’s engagement with school – on practical and emotional levels.

In the longer term, there may be a range of impacts to mental health, relationships, educational engagement – such as:

It’s also worth bearing in mind that young people may be affected in some of these ways due to experiences of gender-based violence of which schools may be unaware.

Trauma and gender-based violence

Gender-based violence will often be experienced as traumatic events. Traumatic events can be described as:

an event, a series of events or a set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening(SAMSHA, 2014) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (2014), Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma Informed Approach SAMSHA Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative July 2014. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, office of policy, Planning and Innovation – cited in Transforming Psychological Trauma: A knowledge and skills framework for the Scottish Workforce, NHS Education for Scotland

Gender-based violence can often have traumatic impacts as it can cause people to feel overwhelmed, overpowered, violated or afraid for their safety. People subjected to ongoing abuse, abuse it is difficult to escape from, or abuse in the context of close relationships (child sexual abuse, domestic abuse) may experience complex trauma, which is more likely to lead to longer-term PTSD.

The NHS Scotland National Trauma Training Programme has a wide range of resources and information to help practitioners across the Scottish workforce understand more about trauma and its implications for their work.

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