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Sexual violence increases during national curfews in the Netherlands

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1 November 2021 Tags: COVID-19, Netherlands, research, Young People

In the Netherlands, young people were less sexually active and sexual violence increased during the national curfew imposed at the start of 2021. These are key findings from Rutgers and Soa Aids Netherlands research on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the sexual health of young people in the Netherlands. Nearly 2500 young people in the age of 16-24 years participated in the research.

More sexual violence

During the curfew period, 3% of boys and 8% of girls experienced sexual violence. That is more than during the summer period (1% and 5%, respectively). The possibility to party or meet for a date may have been less safe due to the curfew. In addition, during this period young people, in particular, received more unwelcome sexually explicit images and requests.

Ton Coenen, director of Rutgers, finds the figures worrying: “We have seen for years that sexual violence is on the rise. That it increases during the curfew period is even more worrying. Something really needs to be done about this. Preventing sexual violence must be a priority of our next Dutch government.”

Less sex during lockdown

Just like the other lockdowns, single people were less sexually active than before the pandemic. The percentage was lowest during the first lockdown period (40%). In the summer this percentage rose to 69% and during the second lockdown at the end of 2020, it fell again sharply (52%). During the curfew, it stayed at 53%.

Summer months

Young people resumed their love and sex lives again during the summer of 2021. Despite the fact that the relaxations of COVID-19 restrictions in early June, especially in the nightlife, were reversed almost immediately. With regards to flirting, dating and sex, singles are almost at the same level as before the pandemic. For example, 35% of singles aged 16-20 were sexually active in the summer of 2021, compared to 36% in the months before Corona.

The researchers also observed a negative impact on mental well-being during the curfew. But during the summer of 2021, mental well-being improves considerably. Young people appear to be resilient. Yet they are also still slightly gloomier and lonelier than before the pandemic.

Not quite there yet

The researchers are concerned about young people who wanted to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) but have not yet done so. Within this group, one in five young people indicated that they have not been tested for COVID-19-related reasons. Mark Vermeulen, director of Soa Aids Nederland, explains: “Not yet everywhere in the Netherlands, the STD clinics of the regional health services are running at the same capacity as before the pandemic, for example, due to staff shortages. If young people have been at risk and do not want to see their GP, or cannot go to the local health service facility, a reliable self-sampling test is an alternative. Access to this care is really important, especially now that young people are more sexually active.”

About the research

The data for this study was collected between 8 and 26 September 2021, just before the last COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. 2464 young people aged 16-24 completed the questionnaire. These young people were recruited via social media, which means that the study is not representative of all young people in the Netherlands.

Download the research report (in Dutch only)
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