Commitment 1: Awareness & training

Around the world, services that deal with children’s care and protection are failing boys affected by sexual violence. Increasing awareness and training are crucial steps in changing this for the better.

What’s the problem?

Sexual violence affecting boys remains largely unknown, unacknowledged and not responded to across a wide range of contexts and cultures. A perception that boys are less vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence mean that the problem lacks visibility; and professionals working with children not adequately supported with training on the issue. Our research report, Caring For Boys Affected By Sexual Violence (2018), confirmed this.

Through our research, we encountered a wide range of knowledge, awareness and opinions. We found that, in some countries, some service providers consider it normal that adolescent boys exchange sex for favours. In South Africa, we were told how the child protection system is completely lacking when it comes to boys and disclosure, as boys are simply not disclosing to social service professionals or others in the system. Regarding the police, in many countries we found that police often do not believe boys can be abused at all. In several countries in South Asia, a lack of clarity on legal protocol means that police can use outdated sodomy laws to punish boys who have been sexually exploited. And in the Philippines, boys harmful sexual behaviour was often dismissed with the phrase, “Boys will be boys.”

This has been backed up by UNICEF*, who report that service providers, including teachers, social workers and their assistants, alternative caregivers, health professionals, law enforcers, lawyers and judges, all need to be strengthened in their knowledge, attitudes and capacities to support boys affected by sexual violence. 

The lack of awareness leads to a lack of services, and this leads to a lack of evidence; creating a vicious cycle whereby resources are not allocated towards improving the situation.** 


What we are calling for 

We’re calling for organisations involved in caring for children ensure that they provide training, awareness raising and on-going support to staff; so they can recognise and respond to sexual abuse affecting boys, be sensitive to issues around sexuality, and develop locally-appropriate, effective and meaningful interventions. 

This also means ensuring that quality standards, codes of conduct and complaint mechanisms are in place to prevent sexual violence in institutional care, and that staff are aware of why this is important and how to apply them.

We are also asking for donors, policymakers, researchers, programmers and practitioners to be more mindful of how stereotypes around masculinity might affect resource allocation, programming priorities and targeting for prevention interventions; and to put in place opportunities to think about how to change this where necessary.

Our Caring For Boys Affected By Sexual Violence report expands on the changes that need to be made.


Making it happen

Through the United For Boys Charter, we’re calling for organisations to commit to ensuring their services work for every girl and every boy who needs them.

Through our package of support and guidance, we support signatory organisations to make it happen around the world.

Learn more on the United For Boys hub.



*Source: UNICEF Philippines and Council for the Welfare of Children (2015) National baseline study on violence against children: Philippines. National Survey Results. 

**Source: Our report, Caring for Boys Affected by Sexual Violence.

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